Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) speaks with head coach Tom Herman at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sept. 15, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Football

Breaking down the offense: A position-by-position look at Texas’ roster, depth

Posted August 22nd, 2019

Advertisement

Texas will have a new leading rusher and receiver this fall.

While we’re at it, the Longhorns — who averaged 31.1 points and 411.3 yards per game last season — also will need a new starting tight end. Expect to see new names on the left side of the offensive line. Last year’s starting right guard? He’s gone, too.

But the offensive cupboard is not bare. Three returning starters — quarterback Sam Ehlinger (Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Wuerffel), wide receiver Collin Johnson (Biletnikoff) and center Zach Shackelford (Rimington and Outland) — are on notable preseason watch lists. There are five offensive starters in all. And running back Keaontay Ingram and offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter, both of whom will start this season, were used in key moments last year. And Texas brought in Parker Braun, an all-conference guard at Georgia Tech, as a graduate transfer.

Advertisement

Here’s where the Texas offense stands in term of roster and depth, by positions:

Texas will rely this year on new starting running back Keaontay Ingram (left) and several key returning starters, including left tackle Samuel Cosmi and quarterback Sam Ehlinger (middle) and wide receiver Collin Johnson (right). (American-Statesman staff)

Quarterbacks

There are three — junior Sam Ehlinger, redshirt freshman Casey Thompson and freshman Roschon Johnson.

Sam’s the man, and that man threw for 3,292 yards and totaled 41 touchdowns last year. Those numbers doesn’t eradicate all of the questions about the quarterbacks, however. The Longhorns survived injuries to Ehlinger in each of the past two seasons, including twice last year against Baylor and Iowa State, thanks to Shane Buechele, the former starter. He had to replace Ehlinger for the rest of the game after Texas’ opening drive against Baylor, and later played the entire second half against Iowa State.

Herman has sung the praises of his two freshman backups, but the fact is neither has ever thrown a pass in a college game.

Running backs

There are four — sophomore Keaontay Ingram, freshman Jordan Whittington, junior Daniel Young and senior Kirk Johnson.

Ingram rushed for 708 yards in his first season, just behind Tre Watson’s team-leading 786. But this summer he has called his freshman year “highly disappointing” since his average rush didn’t exceed five yards. Many expected Whittington, a five-star athlete from Cuero, to get reps at slot receiver when he signed, but the early enrollee has wowed his teammates and coaches since moving to the backfield this spring.

Then there are the vets. Young trails only Ingram in career carries while Johnson is entering his fifth season. Ingram suffered a bruised knee bone in the first preseason scrimmage and Johnson has battled injuries since he arrived in 2015, so backfield depth could be a concern.

Texas wide receiver Brennan Eagles (82) exits the field after falling to West Virginia 42-41 in 2018. He’s expected to start on the outside spot opposite Collin Johnson this fall. (Stephen Spillman/For Statesman)

Wide receivers

There are 11 — seniors Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay, sophomore Brennan Eagles, freshman Jake Smith, redshirt freshman Malcolm Epps, sophomore Joshua Moore, senior John Burt, sophomore Jordan Pouncey, redshirt freshman Al’Vonte Woodard and freshmen Marcus Washington and Kennedy Lewis.

Texas shifted away from its previous philosophy of playing a steady rotation of receivers last season, so it will be interesting to see if that stays the same or changes this fall. The receivers depth chart, after all, is the deepest on this offense.

Johnson (68 catches for 985 yards and 7 TDs) and Duvernay (41-546-4) are coming off solid seasons, but Lil’Jordan Humphrey (86-1,176-9) led the team in catches, yards and touchdowns. He left school early for the NFL. Where Texas plays Duvernay could have a domino effect. He played at the Z spot — the second outside receiver position, opposite Johnson (Y) — last year, but moving him to Humphrey’s slot position, or H, will open up more playing time for Eagles at Z. But if that happens, might it block Smith, the 2018 national Gatorade player of the year, from seeing the field?

Tight ends

There are four — junior Cade Brewer, sophomore Reese Leitao, and freshmen Jared Wiley and Brayden LIebrock.

Texas will miss Andrew Beck, a two-year captain who emerged as a viable threat in the passing game last year. Brewer, though, does have experience (24 games) and the former Lake Travis standout caught a big touchdown pass at USC as a freshman in 2017. The other tight ends are all looking for their first college catches; Wiley, a three-star recruit from nearby Temple, went through spring drills and Herman said, “we’re planning on him playing some this year.”

Texas offensive linemen J.P. Urquidez (71), Tope Imade (67), Derek Kerstetter (68) and Patrick Hudson (73) look for a block as they run drills during practice at Wright Whitaker Sports Complex on Aug. 7. (Stephen Spillman/For Statesman)

Offensive tackles

There are eight — sophomore Samuel Cosmi, junior Denzel Okafor, redshirt freshmen Reese Moore and Christian Jones, freshman Tyler Johnson, sophomore Willie Taylor, and freshmen Isaiah Hoofkin and Javonne Shepherd.

Cosmi, after a solid showing at right tackle last year, will move over to left tackle as Texas looks for a replacement for Calvin Anderson. Okafor will get a chance to shine after redshirting last year, on the right side. And since Tom Herman’s first season, 2017, Kerstetter has been the only true freshman that has played on the offensive line. Johnson, though, was a four-star recruit who enrolled early.

Offensive guards

There are five — junior Derek Kerstetter, senior Parker Braun, redshirt freshman Junior Angilau, and juniors Tope Imade and J.P. Urquidez.

Kerstetter and Angilau started fall camp as the two starters at guard, but it wasn’t expected to have to wait too long for Braun to find his spot. Over the last three years at Georgia Tech, he earned all-ACC honors twice. Kerstetter has started at tackle and guard in his career and he also can play center. Imade also has worked out on the defensive line, but he could be a find for the interior of the offensive line.

Centers

There are two — senior Zach Shackelford and redshirt freshman Rafiti Ghirmai.

As he enters this fourth season as a starter, Shackelford will be leaned on as both an on-field contributor and a leader. Various injuries, however, have forced him to miss games in each of his first three seasons. Ghirmai is still learning how to play the position, so expect Kerstetter to slide over if Shackelford is ever sidelined at any point.

Special teams: Kickers

There’s just one — sophomore Cameron Dicker.

Dicker the Kicker endeared himself to UT fans last year when he nailed a 40-yard field goal to beat Oklahoma in the closing seconds. He also set school freshman records for field goals (18) and total points (105). Additionally, the Lake Travis product recorded 52 touchbacks and a 63.2-yard average on his kickoffs.

Comments