Early in the season, Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian was willing to stay the course with his starting offensive line following the debacle in Fayetteville against the Arkansas Razorbacks. But only one game into the post-Denzel Okafor era, Sarkisian did make quick changes to this week’s depth chart after the offensive line struggled once again, this time in the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners.
On Monday’s depth chart, super senior Derek Kerstetter moved from left guard, where he’d replaced Okafor, back to his more familiar position at right tackle. Junior guard Junior Angilau moved from the right to the left and super senior Tope Imade replaced Angilau at right guard with redshirt freshman Andrej Karic becoming the backup left tackle.
For Imade, the 6’6, 361-pound Arlington Bowie product is set to receive his first start after making only eight appearances entering the 2021 season. Sarkisian credited Imade’s perseverance and improvement when he spoke with the media on Thursday.
“I think there’s something to be said about perseverance,” Sarkisian said. “In this day and age, now more than ever, especially in college football, perseverance is a bit of a lost trait. And so when you when you have really cool living examples of a guy who’s in a sixth year, has never made a start, and now is getting his opportunity... there’s a lot of value in that.”
Working under offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Kyle Flood, Imade has improved since the new staff arrived, according to Sarkisian, helping him edge out freshman Hayden Conner, who was ahead of Imade earlier in the season.
“He’s kind of earned his time — he’s put in a lot of time and worked at it, he’s big physical player. I’m excited to watch him and what he can do,” Sarkisian said of Imade.
If Imade struggles, Sarkisian made it sound like Conner could receive an opportunity after surging up the depth chart following his arrival on campus. At the least, the competition will continue in practice.
Kerstetter made the move back outside thanks to his comfort level there, Sarkisian said, following the first poor performance of Karic’s career during which he gave up multiple sacks and several other hits on junior quarterback Casey Thompson. Putting Kerstetter outside at tackle should help improve those issues in pass protection and provide more physicality at guard at the point of attack — Imade has the potential to create more displacement on runs like inside zone and duo with his sheer size and strength.
But Karic could also see playing time against Oklahoma State or later in the season if junior left tackle Christian Jones sees his own issues in pass protection resurface.
“I think competition is good for us at left tackle,” Sarkisian said. “I think competition generally brings out the best in all of us, so I think it’ll be good for Christian and Andre as well.”
Halfway through the regular season, there’s no longer time to excuse mistakes as issues fixable with better chemistry or improved communication — it’s time for swift accountability.