Texas freshman defensive back Derek Williams will miss the first half of the Longhorns' College Football Playoff semifinal against Washington after his appeal for a targeting ejection in the Big 12 Championship Game was denied, according to 247Sports. The targeting call to open the game's second half was made when Williams, a blocker on Texas' kick return, launched into a coverage specialist for Oklahoma State and made helmet-to-helmet contact.
Though not technically a starter, Williams has carved out a big role as a true freshman with 373 snaps played at safety -- third-most among the team's defensive backs. He finished the regular season with 38 total tackles, one for a loss, and two pass breakups in 11 games.
Losing Williams for a half is also compounded by the fact that veteran starting safety Jalen Catalon entered the NCAA transfer portal after an injury-riddled season. That means Texas will have to rely heavily on the trio of Jerrin Thompson, Michael Taaffe and Kitan Crawford until Williams can return.
The 6-foot-2 and 191-pound Williams signed with the Longhorns in 2023 out of New Iberia, Louisiana. A touted four-star prospect, he was the No. 66 player and No. 4 safety in his class, per 247Sports, choosing Texas over reported offers from 16 other schools around the nation.
Texas earned the 3-seed in the final College Football Playoff rankings following its first Big 12 Championship Game win since 2009. The Longhorns are set to play No. 2 Washington in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2024, with a spot in the national championship on the line.