Texas inched one win closer to bowl eligibility after a 42-27 victory over Kansas on Saturday, but there are still several unanswered questions surrounding the Longhorns as they prepare for their final two games.
Here’s what we learned at head coach Tom Herman’s weekly press conference on Monday afternoon:
Williams’ Future: short term, long term
Since his injury back in Texas’ third game of the season against then-No. 4 USC, the presence of All-American offensive tackle Connor Williams has been one the Longhorns miss. Two weeks ago, Herman said the junior tackle was set to return in the future, but Williams has yet to return to the field for the burnt orange.
From the sound of things, this Saturday may be the time for Williams’ return.
“(Williams) practiced against the scout team in shorts and a helmet yesterday,” Herman said. “Tomorrow will be a big test for him once he puts full pads on, getting inside drill, bang him around a little and see how he feels.”
Williams’ return would be a big one. The absence of the 315-pounder has been felt all season. That was on full display when the Longhorns only managed to rush for nine yards in their 24-7 loss to then-No. 8 TCU.
Freshmen Derek Kerstetter, sophomore Denzel Okafor and senior Tristan Nickelson have tried to weather the damages left by the projected NFL Draft first-rounder.
“The biggest thing is how strong Connor is in comparison to Derek (Kerstetter) and Denzel (Okafor),” Herman said. “It’s a youth thing. I love those two kids and I think their future is extremely bright but I saw Connor Williams power cling 395 pounds or something ridiculous like that … it was off-the-charts strong. I think it’s the inside run game, and the presence, has been hard to manufacture without his strength in there.”
Williams’ short-term plans appear to be shaping up, but the long-term, however, is a much different story. At the beginning of the year, Williams was a projected first-round draft pick. Now, Williams has a decision to make: enter the draft or return to Texas for his senior year.
Herman was asked whether they have discussed Williams’ future, but Herman wasn’t willing to reveal any information regarding the junior’s decision.
Take Your Pick: Buechele, Ehlinger
Freshman quarterback Sam Ehlingermand sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele have both gotten their fair share of starts this season. Although Herman is 10 games into the season, he still hasn’t stuck with one quarterback.
Buechele sustained a bruised shoulder and ankle injury in the earlier stages of the season, allowing Ehlinger to take the starting role. However, after Ehlinger sustained multiple head injuries, Buechele found himself back in the mix and started in the last three games.
With two games remaining in the season, both quarterbacks are cleared, forcing Herman to decide on the freshman or sophomore. But Herman hinted toward possibly playing both Buechele and Ehlinger, if that’s what it takes to win.
“These last two games, it’s gonna be what do we need to win? And what do these guys do well in the game plan?” Herman said. “As we see how the game develops we’ll know a lot more in the number of reps. I’d imagine you’ll see both of them at some point, but in what ratio I don’t know just yet.”