With injuries and lack of depth along offensive line, freshmen expected to play key roles

Payne Williams, Senior Sports Reporter

For the Orange-White game in April, the Longhorns had nine available scholarship offensive linemen. Of the 18 currently listed on Texas’ roster, half are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.

Even in fall camp, Texas has continued to lose linemen due to injury, like senior offensive lineman Junior Angilau, and to the transfer portal, like junior and former four-star recruit Jaylen Garth. The gaps have paved the way for freshmen to carry a leading role on the offensive line heading into the fall.

And while official depth charts won’t be released until closer to the season’s kickoff, at least a few freshmen will be expected to make an immediate impact up front.

Freshman Kelvin Banks has already proven himself as a top big man in the Texas locker room. The former five-star recruit is making the most of his time in training camp, which hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Banks is very unique,” senior defensive lineman Keondre Coburn said. “I’ve never seen an offensive lineman come in day one and be so ahead of everyone. … He hit the ground running.”

Other camp standouts including freshmen Cameron Williams and Cole Hutson were highlighted by Sarkisian in Thursday’s media availability.

With Angilau’s season-ending ACL injury during the Longhorns’ first scrimmage, fellow teammates believe freshmen like Williams are more than ready for the opportunity. 

“(Williams) is very, very mobile,” senior offensive linebacker Christian Jones said. “It’s awesome to see his flexibility, and he’s doing very well.”

With the incoming youth, proven veterans will play a crucial role in leading the freshmen through a tough slate in 2022.

“I try to be a leader by example and through consultation,” Jones said. “If anyone needs me, they know where to find me. Everyone has my phone number.”

Jones acknowledged the added expectation on himself and other upperclassmen following Angilau’s injury. The senior expressed the importance of forming a connection to the less-seasoned players like freshmen DJ Campbell.

The relationship between seniors and young players like Campbell provides a unique opportunity to learn from each other both on and off the field.

“(Campbell) is always locked in and taking notes in film,” Jones said. “It’s both of us. I’m helping him just as much as he’s helping me.”

Gearing up for the season, Banks and Hutson are both working back from injuries that took place earlier in training camp, but both are expected to be fully healthy by week one.

Some opportunities could be open for the freshmen along the line, including a starting slot for Kelvin Banks at tackle and a potential swing tackle role for Cam Williams. Banks will likely have his hands full in week two when No. 1 Alabama and Will Anderson, edge rusher and Heisman frontrunner, visit Texas.

“Do I think we have a talented freshmen class? I do,” offensive line coach Kyle Flood said on Aug. 2. “The best five players are going to play.”