By itself, the Hughes injury wouldn't seem to be devastating. He's a true freshman offensive tackle, at a position where the Longhorns not only appear set in the starting lineup (Donald Hawkins, Josh Cochran) but also potentially at the No. 3 spot (Luke Poehlmann). But Paden Kelley's decision to leave the football team means the Longhorns are suddenly short of offensive tackles, and Hughes would have had an excellent shot at making the two-deep. From that point, he's one injury (or one poor performance) away from being in a potential rotation at the position.
Now, that responsibility will fall to the winner of a position battle between Garrett Greenlea, a redshirt freshman, and Kennedy Estelle, a true freshman. Estelle would seem to have the talent advantage, but the last time I saw him, he looked more like a basketball player than an offensive lineman. That's obviously excellent for future growth: he's a tremendous athlete with great feet who has a fantastic frame. But right now, it also means that he might not be ready to handle the burdens of playing immediately as well as the 315-pound Hughes. And even beyond that, Hughes was in for the spring, getting a leg up not only in terms of learning the offense, but also in spending a full semester working with Texas strength guru Bennie Wylie.
Best-case scenario, the injury doesn't come into play. Texas stays healthy through the season and the No. 4 tackle spot doesn't come into play in a difficult situation. Worst-case scenario, a pair of injuries forces either Estelle or Greenlea into the starting lineup, when they might not be ready for it.
Sound like the kind of thing that would only happen in the absolute worst of times? You don't even have to go back that far to find a season in which it happened. In 2010, Texas lost Poehlmann, then the team's No. 3 tackle, for the season in the second game. And when Kyle Hix was injured against Kansas State later in the year, it opened the door for the No. 4 tackle, ironically enough, Paden Kelley. Kelley started at left tackle against a top-15 team in Oklahoma State, a 33-16 loss. Hix was back the next week.