Linebacker isn’t the only position causing concern for Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman — departures following last season and several injuries have left new position coach Herb Hand with only eight fully healthy scholarship offensive linemen.
So when the Horns take the field for the Orange-White game on April 21, two walk ons will play with the second-team unit. Given superior depth at defensive line, that will significantly impact evaluations of the running backs and quarterbacks working behind the starters.
Texas ended up in this position because guard Jake McMillon, a 16-game starter, and guard/center Terrell Cuney, a key reserve last season, were among four offensive linemen who gave up their final season of eligibility.
When combined with the ACL injury suffered by sophomore Pat Hudson last fall and a spring concussion suffered by junior college transfer Mikey Grandy, those losses have left the Longhorns short on healthy scholarship players.
The good news is that Hudson returned to practice during the portion available to media on Thursday for the first time since he was injured against San Jose State. Whether he’ll play in the spring game remains unclear.
As a result of those injuries, though, Herman specifically mentioned the young back ups as players who need to step up and develop this spring — redshirt freshman left tackle Sam Cosmi, sophomore right guard Tope Imade, and redshirt freshman right tackle JP Urquidez. All three will have a chance to show where they are heading into the summer during the spring-ending scrimmage.
There are plenty of reinforcements coming this summer, too, including grad transfer Calvin Anderson, who should immediately take over at the left tackle position. The status of signee Junior Angilau doesn’t have a resolution at this time, but there are still three other offensive linemen in the class — tackles Reese Moore, Rafiti Ghirmai, and Christian Jones — to help fill out the position room this fall.
Going through the spring without a full scholarship two deep at the offensive line positioned isn’t an ideal situation, but it happens sometimes with a unit that needs 10 healthy players to do so. Losing five players with eligibility, including Connor Williams heading off to the NFL, tends to have that effect.
And the situation further puts into perspective how critical it was to land Anderson and close out strong with the offensive line class — Grandy, Angilau, and Jones committed and signed after the regular season ended and the staff knew about the pending departures.
So credit Herman and his staff for hitting the needed mark and then hiring a well-respected offensive line coach who can also provide some valuable input to the offense as a whole.
As Herman has emphasized all spring, now it’s all about developing. And a little bit of waiting and recovery.