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Florida’s Kylan Johnson headlines weak group of potential Texas graduate transfer LB options

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The Horns lack proven depth at the position, but there aren’t a lot of appealing options. In fact, only one name stands out.

NCAA Football: Charleston Southern at Florida Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

With the early April news that Texas Longhorns freshman linebacker De’Gabriel Floyd is expected to miss the 2019 season, the thin position became an area where head coach Tom Herman and his staff could seek to add a graduate transfer for depth purposes.

Earlier this offseason, Texas landed a commitment from former Georgia Tech offensive guard Parker Braun, a two-time all-ACC selection who is expected to compete for the starting left guard position. Last year, the Horns found success with two graduate transfers — former Rice left tackle Calvin Anderson and former Cal running back Tre Watson.

Braun and Anderson are the type of graduate transfers seeking a higher level of competition, much like former Butler offensive tackle Tommy Kennedy, who visited in December and eventually chose Miami after Texas declined to extend an offer. Watson suffered a season-ending knee injury as a senior that resulted in his departure because Cal doesn’t typically keep graduate students on the football roster.

And then there’s another other type — those players who weren’t able to find enough playing time, often at bigger programs. Unfortunately for Texas, a lot of linebackers in the transfer portal either lack immediate eligibility or simply didn’t play much, which makes them much less appealing. One of those players is Syracuse linebacker Tim Walton, who has only one tackle in four career games.

In going through the NCAA transfer portal database at 247Sports, there aren’t many names that stand out as potential targets.

One appealing name still listed there is Nevada’s Gabe Sewell, a three-year starter at middle linebacker. However, Sewell opted to return to Reno for his senior season after his stint in the transfer portal lasted less than two weeks. He led the team in tackles last year with 92, with 7.5 coming behind the line of scrimmage — he’d be an appealing option, even if he’s only listed at 5’11.

And that leaves Florida linebacker Kylan Johnson, who played quarterback at Dallas Skyline in high school before signing with the Gators as a safety in 2015. After putting on weight during a redshirt season, Johnson moved to linebacker and started the final five games of the 2016 season due to injuries, recording 39 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, and one fumble recovery.

In 2017, however, Johnson’s career got derailed by multiple injuries and he only started one game as a result. With the arrival of Dan Mullen from Mississippi State as the head coach, Johnson largely served as a reserve, starting two games and recording 27 tackles.

As an outside linebacker, Johnson would project as a Rover at Texas, the position currently occupied by senior Jeffrey McCulloch, who capped an impressive spring with an interception in this month’s Orange-White game. However, it’s not clear if Johnson will actually leave the program and whether he’s on track to graduate in May, a significant question mark given that he only has one season of eligibility remaining.

So the current options are quite limited and that may not change much in the coming weeks, as most graduate transfers are already on the market by this point in the process.

As always, though, the staff will continue doing its due diligence in an effort to ensure that the Horns have the greatest possible depth across the field when Texas kicks off against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 31.