One potential breakout player for the Texas Longhorns won’t suit up in the burnt orange and white this season, as senior defensive end Marqez Bimage will opt out due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Anwar Richardson of Orangebloods and later confirmed by multiple other outlets.
The Wednesday news makes Bimage the second player to decide against playing this season, joining senior running back Daniel Young.
A 6’2, 251-pounder and one-time Houston commit who followed Tom Herman to Austin in 2017, Bimage spent the offseason dropping weight to make the transition from playing heads up against offensive tackles to getting the opportunity to more frequently play on the edge. Ultimately, the Brenham product lost 20 pounds in an effort to capitalize on the flashes that he showed late in 2019 when he was able to use his speed and explosiveness against Texas Tech to force a strip-sack and add another quarterback hurry.
So Bimage, who can squat 700 pounds, was a potential breakout player following the departure of Malcolm Roach, which opened up the opportunity for Bimage to seriously compete for a starting job for the first time in his career.
Now the question is whether Bimage will maintain his season of eligibility, use his available redshirt season to return in 2021, or simply be done with football at Texas as a result of this decision.
During a media availability on Wednesday morning, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby noted that the NCAA Division I Council will have to make a decision about whether athletes will maintain their eligibility if they decide to opt out — according to the commissioner, it’s not the same thing as merely taking a redshirt because the athlete won’t be around the team.
“You removed yourself from participation with the football program and it is much more difficult to re-engage to keep your aid if you want to opt out, but it isn’t the same as taking a year off to train,” Bowlsby said.
That consideration isn’t just key for the athletes to understand where they stand moving forward, but also for the head coaches trying to manage their rosters. Will Bimage and Young count against the scholarship limit this year?
Texas does have at least two scholarships available — depending on whether all of the former walk ons are renewed — and that could influence how Herman and his support staff approach what could become a wave of graduate transfers due to cancelations of the fall season around college football.
In recent days, the Horns have pursued graduate transfers at running back and linebacker and could consider taking an interior offensive lineman if the right player becomes available, so whether the NCAA counts opt outs against the scholarship limits could quickly become an important topic for the council to address in the coming days.