When the smoke cleared and the ink dried last cycle, the Texas Longhorns 2018 class featured five talents along the offensive line.
The most experienced of the bunch, JUCO product Mikey Grandy, saw his time at Texas come to an end before it ever began, as he was forced to retire from football due to concussions. The other four — Junior Angilau, Reese Moore, Rafiti Ghirmai, and Christian Jones — can still be found around the Forty Acres, and though they’ve flown under the radar as they enjoyed a redshirt freshman season, Texas head coach Tom Herman raved on Thursday of their physical development and upside when asked what’s stood out during Sugar Bowl practices.
“I think it was good for that young O‑line. I think those guys, if they stick together and they progress the way that we think they will — Christian Jones is already 312 pounds,” Herman said. Rafiti Ghirmai is 300 pounds and can move and bend and is explosive. Reese Moore is teetering right around 300 pounds. I know I’m forgetting one— Junior Angilau has been practicing with the 2s. So, he gets a ton of reps.”
“Those guys stick out a bunch just because it’s such meaningful reps because for the entire year they have been reading off of a card and now they get these extended practices of actually running our offense in our terminology, using our blocking scheme. So, I was impressed with their development.”
The physical development of each of the aforementioned is not only notable, but essential.
The weight updates Herman provided mark positive strides for each, as the high-upside Jones was listed at 285 pounds last February when he signed, Ghirmai, a former four-star offensive tackle, was hovering around 290 pounds, and Moore, a top 300 prospect nationally, was listed at only 280 pounds. And though Herman didn’t detail Angilau’s weight, the No. 10 offensive tackle and No. 125 overall prospect in the 2018 class was expected to serve as the headliner of Herb Hand’s 2018 offensive line haul and contend for playing time within his first year or two on the Forty Acres. The fact that he’s seeing time with the second-team provides proof to that end.
In addition to Angilau, Jones, Ghirmai, and Moore will each soon enjoy the opportunity to push for playing time and their place in the two-deep.
On Tuesday, Texas’ Sugar Bowl showdown with Georgia will mark the final time senior starters Calvin Anderson, Patrick Vahe, and Elijah Rodriguez will suit up at left tackle, left guard, and right guard, respectively. By Jan. 2, three opportunities along the offensive line will be open and for the taking.
Texas’ four redshirt freshmen won’t be the only ones eyeing those opportunities, as Denzel Okafor, Tope Imade, Derek Kerstetter, and Patrick Hudson will be among the others seeking to secure a starting gig ahead of next season. But the physical progress the freshmen have made while watching from the sidelines this season should assure they’ll have some say in how the two-deep shapes up.