Head coach Steve Sarkisian will have one of his best playmakers on offense available on Saturday when the No. 3 Texas Longhorns take on the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners at the Cotton Bowl with the recovery of junior tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders from the leg injury he suffered last week in the win over the then-No. 24 Kansas Jayhawks.
“JT looks great — he’ll be it’ll be good to go Saturday,” Sarkisian said during his Thursday media availability.
On a running play near the goal line in the first quarter, Sanders was rolled up on, getting his right leg pinned beneath the pile. Sanders initially refused help getting off the field before entering the medical tent and ultimately leaving the game.
After the Kansas game, Sarkisian said that the initial medical assessment was that Sanders did not suffer any significant damage to his lower leg, but the staff ultimately decided against letting him re-enter the game on Saturday.
“We kind of watched him run on the sidelines and we just didn’t feel like it was going to be in his best interest to put him back out there in the state that he was in,” Sarkisian said.
Entering last week’s contest, Sanders was tied for first nationally among tight ends with 258 receiving yards, leading the team as well, thanks to five catches for 114 yards in the upset of the Crimson Tide and five catches for 110 yards in the win over the Bears last week. Sanders is currently averaging 21.4 yards per reception.
The availability of Sanders will allow Sarkisian to keep junior tight end Gunnar Helm in his complementary role to Sanders — Helm has three catches for 51 yards this season and is an effective blocker, but doesn’t present the same big-play threat as Sanders. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Malik Agbo is filling to role of jumbo tight end occupied last season by Andrej Karic.
Whether senior cornerback Ryan Watts will be able to go against the Sooners is less clear with less than 48 hours until kickoff.
“I think Ryan’s going to be a game-time decision,” Sarkisian said.
Watts left the Kansas game limping in the first half and was ruled out at halftime. The starter at boundary corner for Texas recorded two solo tackles before the injury. Freshman Malik Muhammad, who has flashed already this season with 12 tackles and two passes broken up, is listed as the backup to Watts on the team’s depth chart.
Even if Watts is out, not much will change for a Texas team that has rotated heavily at cornerback already this season.
“Our scheme will not change and we’ll have a rotation at corner,” Sarkisian said. “I don’t worry so much about starters, all our guys play, our corners, our DBs play a bunch in the game so we’ll make sure we have that dialed in by by Saturday morning, but for now all those guys will play that have been playing.”