Texas football opens Big 12 play on the road on Sep. 23 in Waco against the Baylor Bears and head coach Dave Aranda. Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian have high expectations entering Big 12 play as the preseason favorite to win the conference in the media poll.
The Longhorns have looked impressive out of the gates this season, beating each non-conference foe by double digits, including the No. 3 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in Week 2 on the road in Tuscaloosa. Texas has also defeated the Rice Owls (37-10) in Week 1 and the Wyoming Cowboys in Week 3 (31-10).
Baylor, meanwhile, hasn’t found much success out of the gates this season during non-conference play. Aranda and the Bears rounded up the non-conference slate with a record of 1-2 (0-0 Big 12), including losses to the No. 12 Utah Utes and the Texas State Bobcats. Baylor’s win in the non-con came over FCS Long Island by a score of 30-7 in Week 3 at home.
Part of the blame for Baylor’s struggles to start this season could be placed on injury issues. Baylor lost their starting quarterback, starting running back, and their best and most proven safety during non-conference play.
But Texas has experienced some notable injuries of their own during non-conference play.
Baylor and Texas could see some notable players who have dealt with injuries during the non-con return for the start of Big 12 play this weekend. Here’s a look at the full injury report for the Week 4 matchup between No. 3 Texas and Baylor at McLane Stadium in Waco on Sep. 23.
Texas football injury report vs. Baylor
- CJ Baxter Jr., RB (Probable)
- Cole Hutson, IOL (Out)
- Kris Ross, DL/EDGE (Out)
- Morice Blackwell Jr., LB (Probable)
After sitting out the final non-conference game of the regular season last weekend against Wyoming (detailed report from Hookem.com), true freshman running back CJ Baxter Jr. and junior linebacker Morice Blackwell Jr. are probable for the Big 12 opener. Baxter missed the Wyoming game after suffering a lower-body injury in the Week 2 win on the road over Alabama.
During his Thursday press conference on Sep. 21, Sark said that he feels “good about him [Baxter] going Saturday” against Baylor. Indicators are trending to Baxter returning to the backfield for the Longhorns this weekend.
Assuming Baxter returns from a foot injury against Baylor on Sep. 23, he will likely split carries out of the backfield with redshirt sophomore running back Jonathon Brooks.
More good news on the injury front for the Longhorns is the possible season debut of junior linebacker Morice Blackwell Jr. After suffering a knee injury during fall practice, Blackwell missed non-conference play for the Longhorns.
Blackwell was listed as a “gametime decision” by Sark for the Wyoming game last weekend. But Blackwell appears on track to make his season debut against Baylor.
Two Longhorns players who are out for a few weeks after suffering injuries in the win over Wyoming last weekend are sophomore interior offensive lineman Cole Hutson and redshirt freshman edge rusher/DL Kris Ross. Sark provided an update on the injuries that Hutson and Ross suffered last week in media availability earlier this week.
"“Kris has got an elbow injury. Cole has got a knee injury. I’m hopeful they’re not long, long-term injuries. We’ll know more, like I said, in the morning. I’m hopeful it’s three weeks for each guy. We’ll see how that goes.”"
Ross and Hutson are expected to miss three or four weeks.
In Hutson’s absence, sophomore interior offensive lineman is expected to continue to take starting reps at right guard. Campbell and Hutson split reps at right guard in the last two weeks while both dealt with various injury issues during non-conference play.
Ross got rotational reps at edge rusher during the non-con. He got 50 defensive snaps in the first three games of the season before suffering the upper-body injury last week against Wyoming. In his absence, expect to see more of sophomore edge rusher J’mond Tapp, along with the usual rotations at the position for Pete Kwiatkowski.
Baylor injury report
- Blake Shapen, QB (Doubtful)
- Dominic Richardson, RB (Doubtful)
- Devin Lemear, S (Questionable)
- Jerrell Boykins, DL (TBD)
- Tevin Williams II, CB (TBD)
The three big injuries Baylor suffered during non-conference play were to redshirt junior starting quarterback Blake Shapen, junior running back Dominic Richardson, and sophomore safety Devin Lemear.
Shapen suffered a sprained MCL in Baylor’s season-opening loss to Texas State. He hasn’t taken a snap in live-game action since suffering the knee injury against Texas State. Aranda told the media this week that Shapen is not expected to play against Texas on Sep. 23.
That lines up redshirt sophomore Sawyer Robertson to get his third straight start to open Big 12 play.
Baylor also lost the running back that got the bulk of the carries for them in the first couple of weeks of the season. Richardson suffered a high ankle sprain last week. Aranda said on Sep. 16 that Richardson is “unlikely to go” against Texas in Week 4.
Richardson led all Baylor backs in snaps and rushing attempts in Weeks 1 and 2, with 30 rushing attempts for 156 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry). Sophomore Richard Reese and true freshman Dawson Pendergrass split carries at running back last week in Richardson’s absence in the win over Long Island.
Our latest status update for Lemear is that he will be questionable against Texas in Week 4. Aranda last updated Lemear’s injury status 11 days ago, stating he will be questionable for Week 4. Sicem365 also reported on Sep. 22 (paid content) that Lemear remains questionable heading into the Texas game.
Lemear suffered a dislocated elbow in the opener against Texas State. Baylor has rotated defensive backs to try and make up for the loss of Lemear in the secondary in the last couple of weeks. Lemear is Baylor’s lone returning starter in the secondary this season.
Two more players Baylor could see return to action against Texas this weekend are JUCO transfer defensive lineman Jerrell Boykins and redshirt sophomore cornerback Tevin Williams II. Boykins hasn’t taken any live-game snaps for Baylor after suffering a knee injury during the Bears’ spring game.
Boykins reportedly practiced the last two weeks for Baylor but is still working to get his conditioning levels where they need to be. There is reportedly a chance that Baylor gets a “glimpse” of Boykins in live-game action for the first time this season at nose tackle against Texas.
Redshirt sophomore Cooper Lanz and junior transfer Treven Ma’ae have split the duties at nose tackle for Baylor in the absence of Boykins during the non-con.
Lastly, Williams could return to live-game action for Baylor after suffering an injury in practice the week following the loss to Texas State. The injury Williams suffered in action leading up to Week 2 against Utah caused him to miss the games against the Utes and Long Island in the last two weeks.
Williams started at corner in Week 1 against Texas State before suffering an injury the following week. He was Baylor’s highest-graded starting defensive back in Week 1.