AMES, Iowa — Derek Kerstetter was a candidate to redshirt this season just a few weeks ago. But Thursday night, he was blocking red shirts.
Kerstetter made his Longhorns debut in the 17-7 win over Iowa State. He started at right tackle and helped Texas produce 312 yards of offense. The Longhorns ran 78 plays and held the ball for 40:31.
“He’s a freshman and you’ve just got to pump him up a little bit, as well as everybody,” quarterback Shane Buechele said. “I was excited for him to get his chance that he got. He’s going to get a lot better going forward.”
A 6-6, 285-pound San Antonio native who was a three-star interior lineman, Kerstetter opened this season on UT’s scout team. Injuries moved him up the depth chart. This Tuesday, however, Texas coach Tom Herman said Denzel Okafor would be anchoring the right side of UT’s line. There wouldn’t “be any rotation or anything like that” involving Kerstetter.
But it was Kerstetter who jogged out with the starters. When asked about his decision to start the freshman, Herman bluntly said “he practiced better.” Sophomore center Zach Shackelford was a bit more eloquent.
“I’ve seen him do it from day one of training camp,” Shackelford said. “I knew Derek back in middle school; we both lived in San Antonio together. I’ve always known him as a really hard worker. He loves football and he’s aggressive, so that’s why he got to start.”
Kerstetter was flagged twice for holding on the same third-quarter drive, although one of those penalties were declined. For the most part, though, he was an asset on an offense that ran 52 running plays. That rushing attack featured another member of Kerstetter’s signing class: Toneil Carter.
Carter ran four times for 14 yards. One of his two receptions was a 22-yard touchdown catch. On a 13-play drive that killed off the game’s final 7:35, he picked up the needed yards on a third-and-4 at the Iowa State 48.
Carter scored during the fourth quarter of the 56-0 win over San Jose State on Sept. 9. Through the first three games, however, the Texas backfield had mostly been led by junior Chris Warren III and Porter, a sophomore. The Longhorns added another option in Ames.
A four-star recruit from Houston who enrolled early at Texas after a recruiting snafu at Georgia, Carter had struggled with protecting the football in practices. Herman credited assistant coach Stan Drayton with the work he did with Carter over UT’s bye week.
“This is not a knock on Kyle and Chris, but it’s obvious that Toneil is probably our most twitched-up, explosive, top-end speed tailback,” Herman said. “It was a never a talent issue with Toneil, it was (a) trust issue as a true freshman.”
Kerstetter became the 11th freshman of Texas’ 18-player signing class to play this season. Kicker Joshua Rowland leads the team in scoring, quarterback Sam Ehlinger has already started twice and tight end Cade Brewer caught a game-tying touchdown in the first overtime against USC. Brenham linebacker Marqez Bimage recorded UT’s first tackle of the season.
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