Apologies for the brief hiatus in Longhorn camp coverage, but WE’RE BACK with a breakdown of the biggest storylines from Tom Herman’s second week of camp. The most significant developments have taken place on the injury front, so we’ll run down a few of the most significant notes there along with the number of Golden Girls votive candles to light at each position to propitiate the Football Gods.
The Longhorns got through the first week of high-intensity Herman bang-bang with great luck on the injury front, but the law of averages asserted itself in Week Two.
The most impactful looks to be at Right Tackle, where Evan Rodriguez went down at the start of the week with what’s been diagnosed as a high ankle sprain. He’s getting recommendations from a foot specialist on the proper course of treatment, but right now it feels like his ability to suit up against Maryland is in serious doubt and even USC could be hazy depending on how he responds to treatment.
That gets scary given that the backup options at right tackle are a garbled grab bag at the moment. The physical limitations that we predicted could cost Tristan Nickelson his starting job by midseason have looked even more pronounced against Todd Orlando’s D which prompted the Rodriguez move in the first place. He’s tough to count on right now, and sophomore Denzel Okafor has been spending more time at left tackle backing up Connor Williams in the past couple of days. The optimistic appraisal there is that he could have the feet and punch to mature into a blind side protector...the pessimistic take is that he’s not ready for prime time this season and former second-string LT Jean DeLance is even less so. As of this writing there’s talk of giving Zach Shackelford a look on the right side (he played a good bit of tackle at Belton) and kicking Jake McMillon back to center with Patrick Hudson or Alex Anderson filling in at guard.
GOLDEN GIRLS VOTIVE CANDLE LIGHTING STAGE: Dorothy, Blanche, Rose
On the D-Line Malcolm Roach suffered the dreaded Turf Toe on Monday, but he may have escaped with a minor sprain. He’s in a walking boot and Herman is talking a return to action this coming Monday. Caution would seem to be the order of the day with that kind of a tweak, but with 24 days to kickoff there’s reason for optimism that the Swamp Thing will be full-go well before go-time. Fellow 4i Andrew Fitzgerald hyper-extended his knee, but it doesn’t sound like a long-term concern. The good news is that Charles Omenihu and Taquon Graham continue to be impressive fill-ins at the 4i spots, and there’s also some recent positive buzz around Gerald Wilbon
GOLDEN GIRLS VOTIVE CANDLE LIGHTING STAGE: Dorothy
At running back, Kyle Porter banged up his shoulder a bit. There’s no immediate timetable on his return, but it again sounds like more of a short-term deal. Shoulder injuries have a way of recurring for guys who continually slam the ball inside the tackles, so here’s another case where an extra dollop of caution could be warranted. Fortunately Chris Warren has been running tough with a (thusfar) clean bill of health, and there’s some additional big-back buzz building around freshman Daniel Young. Kirk Johnson is also back in action and once again showing special skills in limited reps. I’ll exhale on his health sometime around the fourth quarter of the Texas Tech game, but it’s nice to see that he hasn’t lost his head-turning explosion.
GOLDEN GIRLS VOTIVE CANDLE LIGHTING STAGE: Dorothy for Porter, plus the perma-Sophia for Kirk Johnson.
A few of the other guys earning particular plaudits with nine days of camp in the books:
Anthony Wheeler and Jeffrey McCulloch have been singled out as the most consistent performers in the linebacking group. Reporters got more of an extended look at practice the other day, and McCulloch significantly outshone Naashon Hughes in pass-rush drills. This won’t surprise a certain audience. Whether “most consistent” is just relative or a sign that the light is truly going on for Wheeler remains to be seen.
At wide receiver it looks like Jerrod Heard is solidifying his hold on the starting Z position at wideout. Guys are making plays every day in a deep and explosive receiver room, but Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and Davion Curtis are getting love out of proportion to their perceive spots in the pecking order and could both earn significant snaps in four-wide sets.
It’s steady-as-she-goes at QB, where Shane Buechele continues to put the starting spot on lockdown and impress the staff with his leadership, command of the offense and improved zip. Buechele to Collin Johnson continues to be a borderline-uncoverable connection, and it looks like that facet will continue to define the Longhorns’ offensive ceiling for 2017. For right now, the concern is making sure that the right tackle spot doesn’t take Texas’ offensive floor into the basement.