Though injuries are an unfortunate part of any team's spring practices, Texas is dealing with one where it can least afford it.
On Tuesday, Texas head athletic trainer Anthony Pass confirmed that sophomore offensive lineman Kent Perkins underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday and will miss the rest of spring practice. (H/T Chris Hummer of The Dallas Morning News.)
Head coach Charlie Strong previously mentioned that Perkins had sustained his knee injury toward the beginning of spring practices, though the extent of it wasn't immediately known.
The silver lining, of course, is that Perkins should be back in time for fall camp. Depending on his recovery time, he may even be back for voluntary summer workouts. With Perkins out, Strong said that Darius James will receive more reps at tackle.
Ideally, though, Texas needs Perkins. Texas needs as many bodies to be available along the O-line, for that matter.
Offensive line is the biggest question mark facing the Longhorns—not just on offense, but in general. Gone are seniors Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters. So, too, is former starting tackle Josh Cochran, who decided to end his career earlier this year because of a chronic shoulder injury.
That's most of Texas' starting offensive line from a year ago. Obviously, there's a lot to replace. Dominic Espinosa returns as a veteran center to anchor the line, but the Horns' coaching staff will be plugging in newer guys around him.
There are some quality candidates, but not a lot of depth at tackle. Kennedy Estelle should slide into one of the tackle spots opposite Perkins. Sedrick Flowers is a veteran with playing experience. He should fill in one of the guard spots.
|Departing Texas linemen|
Offensive line is like no other group on the field in that it truly is the sum of its parts. The line works closely together in tight quarters to make the entire offense work. The more an O-line can practice together as a cohesive unit, the better.
While Perkins' injury isn't a worst-case scenario, it is, like so many other spring injuries, a missed opportunity to get better and grow as part of a unit. And Texas desperately needs to get better along the O-line.
Perkins is considered one of the up-and-comers in the program. As a true freshman in 2013, he played in six games and started one. Oftentimes, you'll see a coach prefer to redshirt incoming offensive linemen since there's so much room to mature physically.
At 6'5" and 310 pounds, Perkins was already at that stage and good enough to play. That's a rare combination for such a young player at that position. Here's what Perkins had to say about the possibility of early playing time last May (via Jason Suchomel of Orangebloods.com).
The coaches tell me play their best offensive linemen. If you're the best athlete offensive line wise, they're going to play you. They said you may end playing guard or tackle, but most likely I'll end up playing tackle. I'm just excited about going down there, playing hard and competing for a spot.
As Texas moves forward in spring practice, there's no doubt it will miss one of its brightest young stars at a position with the most room to grow.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report.