Under new offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Kyle Flood, the Texas Longhorns are trying to find a replacement for left tackle Sam Cosmi and build depth while waiting for Derek Kerstetter to return from the leg injury that ended his 2020 season.
On Thursday, junior defensive tackle Keondre Coburn provided some perspective on how the position battles are shaking out in practice.
The most surprising development is a close competition to replace Kerstetter at center, at least for the spring.
Redshirt freshman Jake Majors was expected to win the job handily after his athleticism played well late in the season following Kerstetter’s injury and helped the Longhorns take a big step forward effectively running outside zone with running back Bijan Robinson. Combined with the natural leadership that Majors showed as soon as he arrived on campus, penciling in Majors as the starter at center seemed like a sure thing.
However, junior Rafiti Ghirmai has turned that position into a legitimate competition, according to Coburn. Ghirmai is in his fourth year out of Wakeland, having played in three games in 2019 and in 10 games in 2020, mostly on special teams. When Majors passed Ghirmai on the depth chart last year, the odds of Ghirmai contributing in a significant way seemingly diminished, but there’s nothing like a coaching change to give players a fresh start. Ghirmai is apparently taking advantage of his.
Coburn also mentioned the physical development of junior guard Junior Angilau, who is about to enter his third season as a starter. Listed at close to 300 pounds out of high school in Salt Lake City, Angilau was remarkably lean during his first two years as a starter. Now, Coburn says that Angilau looks the part of an offensive lineman at 316 pounds, a weight that should help him create more displacement at the point of attack.
The most effusive praise from Coburn was reserved for junior offensive tackle Christian Jones, who went through some significant growing pains last season during his first extensive playing time. Considering that Jones didn’t start playing football until his junior season and spent that year playing along the defensive line, that was hardly surprising. Now Jones is up to 327 pounds and becoming a menace in practice.
“Christian has been winning a lot; Christian has been destroying,” Coburn said. “I think Christian is really standing out the most.”
Coburn also briefly mentioned redshirt freshman offensive tackle Andrej Karic, who played left tackle last season after Cosmi opted out and Kerstetter went down, but there are questions about whether he has the length to play there full time.
For now, Jones and Karic are the top choices at tackle, at least until Kerstetter returns, and where the super senior will fit on this offensive line is still unknown. For now, it’s a positive that players like Angilau and Jones are taking the next steps in their respective development under Flood.