Depth, return of Daje Johnson give Texas Longhorns hope before Iowa State

Peter Sblendorio

After producing their most consistent performance since Week 1 in their last game, the Longhorns enter this week primed to be more agile.

Sophomore running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson is expected to return to the lineup for Thursday night’s game at Iowa State. Johnson missed the last two contests after suffering a left ankle sprain on just the third play of the game against Brigham Young University on Sept. 7.

The sophomore opened the season with a memorable performance against New Mexico State in Texas’ first game, hauling in three receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 62 yards and a score. He remains behind junior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley on the Longhorns’ depth chart, but he hopes to make a significant impact on an offense with a number of key players battling injuries.

Junior quarterback David Ash (concussion), senior wide receiver Mike Davis (ankle) and junior tight end Greg Daniels (foot) each begin the week day-to-day. Head coach Mack Brown remains hopeful his starters will be able to play, but he said it is up to the training staff to clear them.

“If they’re limited in practice, they tell us they’re limited,” Brown said. “We are really not at liberty to even encourage the guys to practice. What they will do with David, like with Mike Davis and Greg Daniels, is they’ll continue to monitor them until game time, or at least Wednesday night and they will tell us whether they will play or not.”

Ash returned last week after suffering a concussion against Ole Miss in Week 3, but he left following the first half after showing concussion symptoms. If Ash remains unable to play Thursday, senior quarterback Case McCoy will start for the second time this season, with freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes serving as his backup.

Texas ruled out junior right tackle Josh Cochran, who missed the Longhorns’ last game after aggravating a previous shoulder injury against Ole Miss. Sophomore offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle starts in his place after filling in admirably against Kansas State.

Senior left guard Trey Hopkins expects the Texas offensive line to perform well in Cochran’s absence once again, as he believes the teams’ depth and ability to put multiple players in each position allows it to avoid a drop off.

“When situations like that arise, it’s not a problem,” Hopkins said. “Just the way that we prepare in practice, moving guys around, we’re not letting anyone just settle into one position. Knowing you have to be able to play all of them really helps in game situations.”