NEW ORLEANS — Last season, Texas offensive lineman Elijah Rodriguez used UT’s bowl game to say hello. One year later, the senior will say good-bye on the Longhorns’ postseason platform.
Rodriguez missed last year’s regular season after injuring his ankle during an August practice. Since he had redshirted in 2014, Rodriguez did not have the option of using the season as a mulligan. So, his junior year consisted of only one appearance as he replaced left tackle Connor Williams in the Texas Bowl.
This season, a healthy Rodriguez has started nine times at right guard. He slid over to the center position for four games as well and even logged a couple of snaps against Baylor at left guard. Rodriguez is also one of the team’s five captains.
Texas will meet Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. On Saturday, Rodriguez reflected in how he has prepared for these last two bowl games. Said Rodriquez:
The way the preparation is set up, the practice structure, the workouts and everything like that, those have all been the same. My mentality, I think, is a little bit different. Last year, I was coming off the injury. I was having to deal with overcoming confidence issues. Confidence in (questions like), is my ankle actually strong enough for me to play? I’ve been off the field for three of four months now, do I have what it takes to play? I was dealing with that, coming off the injury. This season, I’ve played every single snap of offense this season and I’ve done pretty well, so I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder coming into this one. I’ve very excited to compete.”
Joining left tackle Calvin Anderson and left guard Patrick Vahe, Rodriguez is one of three seniors that UT will start on its offensive line on Tuesday. Throw in senior tight end Andrew Beck, and that is a combined 140 starts worth of collegiate experience.
“It’s going to be weird,” junior center Zach Shackelford when asked about not playing anymore with the departing linemen. “I’m going to miss those guys, but next man’s next up. We’ve got to replace them once they leave.”
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