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Texas Jack Joseph Ossai expected to play through shoulder injury

For a second straight year, Ossai will wear a shoulder harness as plays through injury.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman expects junior Jack linebacker Joseph Ossai to be available on Saturday in Stillwater against the Oklahoma State Cowboys after Ossai suffered a shoulder injury during the win over the Baylor Bears.

Ossai left the game just before halftime, but was able to return late despite suffering the anterior capsule strain.

“He’ll be braced up and our plan is to have him participate as tolerated in practice tomorrow,” Herman said on Monday. “If he can’t go tomorrow, then I would imagine Wednesday, he should be good to go, and I would be pretty surprised if we did not see Joseph Ossai play a significant part in this football game on Saturday in Stillwater.”

Ossai suffered a similar injury last season and played largely with one arm for most of the year until he was finally able to regain his health during preparation for the Alamo Bowl against Utah. In that resounding victory, Ossai earned Defensive MVP honors after posting nine tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sacks.

Coming into the 2020 season, the 6’4, 253-pounder hoped to build on that success. So far, Ossai hasn’t racked up the big sack numbers that were expected, largely because teams have focused on the quick passing game to avoid leaving quarterbacks exposed in the pocket — Ossai only has one sack. However, he does have two quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles, along with a team-leading 6.5 tackles for loss among 34 total tackles. Ossai leads the team in tackles for loss and total tackles.

The question moving forward is how limited Ossai will be with that shoulder. Based on his return to the game against Baylor, he looked more functional with the injury than he did last season, but it’s difficult to say if that will remain the case against Oklahoma State.

With redshirt sophomore Jack Byron Vaughns now in the NCAA transfer portal and redshirt junior Reese Leitao battling through a knee injury and playing more often at defensive end thanks to depth issues there, the Jack position lacks depth, too.

Former walk-on Jett Bush has received extensive playing time there behind Ossai, but he’s struggled to impact games with only six tackles and one tackle for loss.

So if Ossai is limited more than expected against Oklahoma State or otherwise moving forward, defensive coordinator Chris Ash may face some difficult decisions about how to get his best 11 defenders on the field.