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With Samuel Cosmi out and Derek Kerstetter hurt, Texas to play a ‘shell game’ on its offensive line

In every game so far this season, Texas has trotted out the exact same lineup on its offensive line.

Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) passes the ball in the first quarter against Iowa State Cyclones during NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 27, 2020; Austin, Texas, at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

That’ll change on Saturday when the Longhorns play at Kansas State. The line may feature two new starters as well as another lineman playing at a new position.

The Longhorns need an immediate replacement for left tackle Samuel Cosmi, who announced Sunday that he will skip the rest of the season. And a high ankle sprain has senior center Derek Kerstetter questionable for Saturday’s game. He’s been wearing a walking boot.

Cosmi’s backup on UT’s depth chart is listed as freshman Andrej Karic. But it was Christian Jones, a sophomore who has started every game at right tackle, who took Cosmi’s reps on the left side during a short practice on Sunday. Fellow freshman Jake Majors worked out at center while third-year sophomore Reese Moore took Jones’ spot at right tackle. So far in their Longhorns careers, Majors and Moore have combined for one appearance and no starts.

Texas coach Tom Herman said the makeup of his offensive line will depend on Kerstetter’s availability. Kerstetter has started 23 times at right tackle, so it;s not a guarantee that he’d return to the center position. Whoever starts on Saturday will face a Kansas State defense that ranks second in the Big 12 with 27 sacks.

“We’ll play the shell game a little bit and give a lot of those guys some opportunities there to show if they are ready to take on a Kansas State team that, wow, are they good up front,” Herman said. “We’re gonna have our hands very, very full with that defensive front.”

Cosmi (6-7, 309) is regarded as a first- or second-round pick in the upcoming draft. With Texas essentially eliminated from contention for a conference championship, he turned his attention to preparing for the NFL. LSU receiver Terrace Marshall and Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman made the same decisions.

Noting Cosmi’s contributions over the past four years and the degree he will receive next month, Herman defended the lineman’s decision on Monday. Herman also said he didn’t believe that any of Cosmi’s teammates would follow the junior’s lead.

“I don’t think that sets any kind of example to anybody on our football team because everybody’s situation is unique,” Herman said. “I want to reiterate the appreciation and gratitude that we have for Sam and his family. … We are very, very proud to have had Sam. He’s going to be a college graduate, he’s going to have his degree from the University of Texas, and the plan is for him to go make us very, very proud in the National Football League.”