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Starters coming into focus for Texas following second scrimmage

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The staff has a plan in place now at more positions than just quarterback.

Calvin Anderson
247Sports

Last Thursday, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman indicated that Saturday’s scrimmage, the second of preseason camp, would be important for setting the two-deep depth chart two weeks before the season opener against the Maryland Terrapins.

“After Saturday, we have got to start preparing to win a game,” Herman said. “Without saying it’s completely black and dry, but most of the two-deep will be set after Saturday’s scrimmage. Certainly, injuries, performance or something like that can certainly change that, but I think we have got to start preparing to win a game on Sunday, and we have got to know who the guys are that we are going to be able to do that with.”

Following a scrimmage that saw many of the starters only play a handful of snaps, Herman made a Monday announcement at the position with the most intrigue, revealing that “barring a catastrophe,” sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger will start at quarterback against the Terrapins.

At the crowded running back position, there isn’t a clear starter yet, but there are three distinct groups. The top group includes sophomore Daniel Young, the starter late last season, graduate transfer Tre Watson, and freshman Keaontay Ingram. The second group features junior Kyle Porter and sophomore Toneil Carter, while juniors Kirk Johnson and Tristian Houston are in the third group.

At wide receiver, there hasn’t been much drama during preseason camp — the starters are still junior Collin Johnson at the X position, junior Devin Duvernay at the Z spot, and junior Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the slot, with freshmen Joshua Moore and D’Shawn Jamison also battling for reps there as the smaller, shifter changeups to the bigger Humphrey.

There’s been much more drama along the offensive line as new position coach Herb Hand has worked to find the best starting five following the much-anticipated addition of graduate transfer left tackle Calvin Anderson. The staff certainly didn’t hand Anderson the job after junior Denzel Okafor started at that position in the Orange-White game, but Anderson is currently ahead of his younger counterpart.

At left guard, center, and right guard, the positions are set — senior Patrick Vahe remains entrenched at left guard, junior Zach Shackelford remains at center, and senior Elijah Rodriguez earned the starting role at right guard.

One major battle still remains, however, between redshirt freshman Samuel Cosmi and sophomore Derek Kerstetter at right tackle, a rather surprising development given that Kerstetter was one of the team’s best linemen last season despite the fact that he was an undersized true freshman.

The staff is still searching for depth behind those starters, as Kerstetter is also working as the back-up center and at guard. Okafor is working at guard, too, while Rodriguez also takes reps at center. Right now, it seems as if sophomore Patrick Hudson is still behind the top seven offensive linemen in the competition for playing time.

On defense, there haven’t been any surprises with the starting line — as expected, seniors Charles Omenihu, Chris Nelson, and Breckyn Hager have held down the top spots.

With a number of injuries and a suspension at linebacker, there’s been a bit more intrigue there. Senior Gary Johnson is still the starter at Rover, with junior Malcolm Roach likely to slide back to the Mac position with senior Anthony Wheeler suspended for the first half of the season opener due to a personal foul penalty from the Texas Bowl. If Roach does move to Mac, then freshman Joseph Ossai could play the B-backer position if junior Jeffrey McCulloch isn’t fully recovered from his pectoral strain. The medical staff expects McCulloch back next week.

In the secondary, many of the starters remain unchanged. Senior Kris Boyd is a team leader at one cornerback position, senior PJ Locke is back at nickel, and junior Brandon Jones seems poised for a breakout season at safety.

At the other cornerback position, the staff is waiting for senior Davante Davis to return to full health after tweaking his hamstring during the first fall scrimmage. He’s expected back for game week, but if he can’t play against Maryland, Herman said that redshirt freshman Kobe Boyce will take his place.

After enrolling early, former five-star safety Caden Sterns is currently set to earn the starting nod at the other safety position. Fellow freshman BJ Foster is the back up to Sterns.

At kicker, the competition continues, as senior Joshua Rowland hasn’t separated from freshman Cameron Dicker or walk-on Chris Naggar. Herman hopes to find a starter there this week.

Now that the staff has largely determined the starters across the board, Texas will start to turn its focus towards preparing for Maryland.