Texas’ notable number: Experienced Horns, Ragin' Cajun linemen — and the number 37
Each week this season, we’ll look at a specific number tied to Texas football.
This week’s notable number is 37 — the jersey that Texas has assigned to freshman linebacker Morice Blackwell. Also, Texas converted just over 37% of its third-down attempts last season. The 37th — and final — rushing touchdown of Vince Young's Longhorns career was the dramatic game-winner in the 2005 national championship game.
Thirty-seven also is the number of starts that Texas offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter has made.
A fifth-year senior, Kerstetter will line up at right tackle when the No. 19 Longhorns open against No. 23 Louisiana on Saturday. He has already started at that spot 24 times. He's also started eight times at center and five at right guard.
Kerstetter will be the most experienced lineman on the field. But he won't be surrounded by novices.
If the depth chart released this week to the media is to be believed, Texas will start Christian Jones (10 career starts) at left tackle, Denzel Okafor (14) at left guard and Junior Angilau (22) at right guard. Jake Majors will return to the center spot after starting twice at the end of his freshman year last season.
"All five of the offensive linemen that have been up there for the 1s, they've been having a nasty mentality and a nasty mindset," Texas running back Bijan Robinson said. "They understand how we're going to win this game and what we have to do to execute and win the game."
Texas has started the exact combination of Kerstetter, Angilau, Okafor, Jones and Majors once before. Angilau and Okafor were swapped at their guard positions, though, in December's win at Kansas State.
If you add up their résumés, you'll get a combined 85 starts. Texas opened the 2020 season with five linemen who had started 71 times. That number was 87 in 2019 and 99 in 2018, although Texas had added an all-conference graduate transfer to its offensive line in both of those seasons.
"It's always good to be able to have an experienced offensive line," Kerstetter said. "You've already had that experience of going into a game and playing next to each other. ... You just kind of know where each other is going to be a little bit more than if you're playing next to a guy that you've never played with."
Like Texas, Louisiana has experience in the trenches. Left guard AJ Gillie has never started, but four of Saturday’s expected starters have.
In fact, the four returning starters on the Louisiana line — left tackle Ken Marks, center Shane Vallot, right guard O'Cyrus Torrence and right tackle Max Mitchell — have combined for 100 starts. Each member of that quartet has started at least two dozen times for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Last year's left tackle, Carlos Rubio, hasn't practiced this week because of an injury and didn't make the two-deep; the Cajuns slid Marks over from left guard.
Over Louisiana's 11 games last year, its offensive line blocked for an 878-yard rusher who was then drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round. The Ragin' Cajuns allowed only nine sacks.
On Saturday, Texas will contend with a defensive line led by All-Sun Belt honoree Zi'Yon Hill. Meanwhile, Louisiana will attempt to keep defensive linemen such as Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo away from its running backs and quarterback Levi Lewis.
"The line of scrimmage is going to be critical Saturday, I think on both sides," Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said.