Texas’ bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.
Key positions on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball have been decimated, as injuries have taken their toll after a rough first four games of the season.
Two of the deepest positions for the Longhorns, wide receiver and safety, are both missing starters — neither of which are easy to replace. Sophomore safety Caden Sterns is going to be out for at least four weeks with a knee injury. Senior wide receiver Collin Johnson missed his second straight game due to a hamstring injury. The Longhorns have been able to plug in their younger players and not miss a beat.
“You never want to be without Collin Johnson, a potential first or second round pick,” head coach Tom Herman said. “We miss his leadership as much as we do his play, but the guys have stepped in nicely.”
The first opportunity for Johnson and his hamstring to return to the field will be the West Virginia game next Saturday. Texas wants to be careful with one of their top receivers, maintaining a big picture mentality with every decision.
“With (Johnson), your pie in the sky would be the West Virginia game,” Herman said. “We want to make sure that when we put him out there that he’s good to go for the rest of the season.”
Even though both sides are hurting, Texas isn’t focused on the injuries.
“I feel like that can be in the back of our minds, but at the same time, we can’t really worry about that,” junior defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham said. “If you’re worried about the issues that, you can’t really get better.”
Although the injuries aren’t on the forefront of the players’ minds, Texas is still cognizant of the burden it places on them. Herman said the preparation for West Virginia will be more front-loaded than usual so the Longhorns can be “at their freshest.”
The bye week also gave freshman quarterback-turned-running back Roschon Johnson a chance to make his decision on redshirting. According to Herman, the only question Johnson had about redshirting was about whether he would still be able to help the team this season. Herman assured him he would be able to contribute to the team.
“I said, ‘Hey kid, this is your decision. This is your career,’” Herman said. “So we’re planning on playing him for the rest of the season.”
Johnson’s decision puts Texas in another unique situation with their running backs. Johnson has impressed in limited touches behind sophomore running back Keaontay Ingram. Johnson has averaged a respectable 4.3 yards per carry in his month at the position. With junior running back Daniel Young, senior running back Kirk Johnson and freshman running back Jordan Whittington making strides to getting back on the field, the decision on where to place him on the depth chart gets cloudier by the day.