Count Texas Longhorns redshirt senior right guard Denzel Okafor among the players who will return in 2021 thanks to a ruling by the NCAA that provides players an extra season of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Okafor announced his decision on Monday via Twitter.
Okafor joins wide receiver Brenden Schooler and tight end Cade Brewer as Longhorns players who have announced that they will return for an extra season on the Forty Acres. Redshirt junior Josh Thompson has also announced his return.
A 6’4, 317-pounder, Okafor was one of only three players on the 2020 roster who signed in the 2016 class to play for Charlie Strong. Considered a consensus four-star prospect, Okafor was the No. 277 player nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, and the No. 12 offensive guard.
After using a season of eligibility to appear on special teams and in the 18-wheeler package as a true freshman, Okafor was forced into the starting lineup in 2017 due to injuries, including two starts at right tackle and two starts at left tackle. Okafor struggled in those appearances and redshirted in 2018 in an attempt to aid his development. Last year, Okafor once again contributed primarily on special teams, but did start against Iowa State.
With Parker Braun exhausting his final season of eligibility in 2019, Okafor earned the open starting job at guard this year as redshirt sophomore Junior Angilau moved to the left side.
Okafor struggled once again playing next to inexperienced redshirt sophomore Christian Jones at right tackle. However, given the lack of proven depth behind Okafor along the Texas offensive line, the departure of left tackle Sam Cosmi, and the uncertainty surrounding the future of senior center Derek Kerstetter following his recent injury, Okafor’s return does have some value for the program.
In fact, with the lack of spring practice this year and limited reps in run periods during preseason camp, it’s possible that some continuity on the right side, along with a more normal offseason, could help Okafor and Jones solve some of their issues on combo blocks to allow Texas to once again run inside zone more often and more consistently.