The Texas Longhorns are expected to go through the remainder of preseason camp without one of the nation’s top centers, as senior Zach Shackelford recently suffered a foot sprain that will likely keep him from practicing until the season opener, though there isn’t currently a firm timetable on his return, according to the school.
So while the Longhorns haven’t suffered any major injuries so far in preseason camp, the news about Shackelford is concerning — he’s the most experienced lineman on the team as a four-year starter and he’s also one of the most important leaders for Texas.
In fact, head coach Tom Herman explained Shackelford’s importance to the team at Big 12 Media Days last month.
Last season, Shackelford suffered a similar injury following the season opener to Maryland that caused him to miss three games and come off the bench during the fourth. Fortunately, he was able to remain healthy for the rest of the season, but he also had a concussion in 2017 that caused him to miss time and lost most of his offseason following his freshman season due to surgery necessitated by playing through multiple high ankle sprains in 2016.
Texas does have a little bit of depth at the position — junior Derek Kerstetter has 15 starts and 24 total games played in his career, but even though he’s taken reps at center, he hasn’t appeared at that position during a game, as Elijah Rodriguez replaced Shackelford last season. As a result, there would be some potential concerns about Kerstetter delivering snaps accurately if he has to take Shackelford’s spot at some point this season.
There are certainly concerns about the third-team center, redshirt freshman Rafiti Ghirmai, who struggled mightily in the Orange-White game to snap the ball after spending his first season after moving to the position during spring practice.
So the staff is clearly hoping that Shackelford can return quickly and stay healthy this season.