The immediate emergence of Smith and Johnson on offense has greatly benefited the Longhorns throughout non-conference play. Considering how well they’ve played thus far, both playmakers may see expanded roles in the offense with conference play beginning this Saturday. The high praise from recruiting analysts and development along the staff haven’t lied — these two guys are more than legit.
The NCAA redshirt rule, which made its debut last season, allows scholarship players to play up to four games without burning their redshirt. To keep track of how many games each freshman has appeared in throughout the season, I’ll list the number of games next to their names.
The 11 freshmen participants from week two included — WR Jake Smith (3), TE Jared Wiley (3), CB Chris Adimora (3), QB/RB Roschon Johnson (3), LB David Gbenda (3), S Tyler Owens (3), DE T’Vondre Sweat (3), LB Marcus Tillman (3), WR Marcus Washington (2), WR Kennedy Lewis (1), TE Brayden Liebrock (1).
Injured/DNP — RB Jordan Whittington (1), CB Kenyatta Watson (1), OT Javonne Shepherd (1).
fUTure19 Game Notes and Highlights
- Saturday’s game gave us a glimpse of Smith’s elite potential at the slot receiver position. The freshman carved up Rice’s secondary for 75 yards on six catches and scored two touchdowns. Ehlinger was finally able to connect with Smith over the middle on that seam route for a 53-yard touchdown. It was only the second play over 50 yards for the Longhorns since 2017.
The rest of Smith’s receptions came on quick bubble screens and passes to the flat outside.
- Once again, Johnson looked like the best running back out there for Texas. He got the Horns on the board with his first career touchdown and showed off his hands and balance after hauling in a 25-yard reception on a well-designed wheel route play. The Texas running backs scored multiple times on a similar play like that last season. Along with the touchdown, he found his way through holes and broke tackles on his way to averaging 5.4 yards a carry.
The freshman always seems to run with a burst and sense of urgency when the ball gets in his hands, whereas Ingram tends to be more patient and less decisive as a runner. If the Longhorns want to play with more tempo against a defense like Oklahoma State, Johnson would certainly be the better fit at running back as of now.
- Linebacker Marcus Tillman flashed some of that Florida speed that Texas recruited him for on Saturday. He nearly had a sack in the fourth quarter but was credited with a quarterback pressure instead. Tillman came in explosively on a designed blitz up the middle and struck the quarterback to force an incomplete pass.
- Smith wasn’t the only true freshman that got action in this one. Marcus Washington and Kennedy Lewis came in when redshirt freshman Casey Thompson checked in at quarterback. Lewis kicked off his collegiate career with a hot start on a nice 37-yard catch and run to set Texas up within Rice territory. While it came off a simple hitch route, Lewis impressively juked a defender and showed his burst after the catch. Washington caught one pass for three yards — he was targeted twice.
- Defensive end T’Vondre Sweat assisted on a tackle.
- Chris Adimora recorded two tackles during his time at cornerback late in the game. Along with Cook and Adimora, the veteran Donovan Duvernay was in at cornerback on those last few defensive drives. Given Adimora’s involvement on special teams and Duvernay’s overall experience, the coaching staff may be planning to use a redshirt on Kenyatta Watson this season.
- Tyler Owens saw fourth quarter playing time at safety and was in on two tackles. With Foster and Overshown out this week due to injuries, Owens may see some run in the secondary against Oklahoma State’s attack, especially if Todd Orlando deploys his Cowboy alignment package (eight defensive backs).