Practices are wrapping up as kickoff nears for the 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl, and both the Texas Longhorns and Oregon Ducks have suspended players that won't be participating in this year's bowl game.
For the Ducks, tight end Pharaoh Brown is suspended for his involvement in a snowball fight, as reported by The Oregonian. And per Comcast SportsNet Northwest, the Ducks will be without cornerback Troy Hill. He was arrested in mid-December for assault.
As for the Longhorns, the team suspended three players for academic reasons. Running back Daje Johnson and offensive tackle Kennedy Etstelle are reported via Geoff Ketchum of Orangbloods on Twitter to miss the bowl game. Running back Jalen Overstreet will also miss the contest as confirmed by Chip Brown of Orangebloods via Twitter. Brown was also able to confirm that all three players will be missing the bowl game because of academic ineligibility.
So what does this mean for the Horns?
First for special teams, not having Johnson limits the opportunity for a game-changing kick or punt return. Johnson's speed matches that of Oregon's players, and Texas might hurt when they are looking for a breakout return. See the embedded GIF, via SB Nation, for more on Johnson's speed.
The loss of Overstreet and Johnson could potentially become an issue. The Longhorns will already be without running back Jonathan Gray who injured his Achilles earlier in the year.
Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are looking to share time in the backfield come December 30. If either player suffers an injury, one or the other will have to take on all the duties in the backfield. Overstreet would have primarily provided depth for the Longhorns' run game at the Alamo Bowl.
And the loss of Johnson limits the offensive play-calling, as he's been known to get the ball on outside speed plays.
Yet, his absence could be a good thing for the Longhorns' rushing attack. Stanford beat Oregon 26-20 thanks to their ground and pound run game that helped them take control of the clock. The Cardinal held onto the ball for over 40 minutes while the Ducks had the ball for less than 20 minutes.
If Oregon doesn't have the ball, they can't score. Unless quarterback Case McCoy doesn't take care of the ball, but that won't be discussed.
Also in that Oregon-Stanford game, the Cardinal rushed for 274 yards behind the strength of senior running back Tyler Gaffney who accounted for 157 of those yards on an astonishing 45 carries. Gaffney, listed at 6'1", 226-pounds by GoStanford.com, is comparable to Longhorns running back Brown who is listed at 6'0", 225-pounds by TexasSports.com.
Brown and Bergeron rushed for a combined 240 yards against Texas Tech when speed tailback Johnson sat out because of a violation of team rules, as reported by Randy Riggs of The Austin American-Statesman. So Johnson's suspension allows the Longhorns to focus on running in between the tackles with Brown and Bergeron.
And speaking of tackles, the loss of Estelle could actually limit the run game.
The sophomore from Pearland, Texas has had a fine year filling in for an injured Josh Cochran. But his suspension limits the depth at the offensive front and could force the Longhorns to expand playing time for a freshman.
Richard Tijerina of the The Austin American-Statesman reported on the situation in a December article.
Estelle took over at right tackle when former starter Josh Cochran was injured in September. He has started eight games. Cochran returned for the Texas Tech and Baylor games, but only in short yardage situations. If he doesn't return to the starting lineup, the Longhorns may look to freshman Kent Perkins, who has one start this season.
At the end of the day, the Longhorns will need perfect play-calling and no turnovers to control the ball and have a shot at victory. How much will the loss of Estelle, Johnson and Overstreet hurt, or maybe help, the Longhorns chance at winning?
Feel free to give your opinion in the comment section below.