Are the Longhorns a Long Shot to “Be Back” in 2022?
Last season, the Texas Longhorns started off 4–1. Then, the train came off the rails as Texas lost six straight games, their longest losing streak since 1956. They finished 5–7 in year one of the Steve Sarkisian era.
Going into the 2022 season, Sarkisian and the Longhorns made some personnel and coaching staff changes to help with the many improvements needed to get back on the winning track.
Texas returns just 9 starters: 5 on offense and 4 on defense.
First, they signed a Top 5 recruiting class (according to 247Sports.com). Then Sarkisian surprised some people by hiring long time TCU head coach Gary Patterson as a “special assistant.” He also hired a new running backs coach and a new wide receiver coach.
Sarkisian then looked to the transfer portal and signed WR Isaiah Neyor (from Wyoming) and QB Quinn Ewers (from Ohio State).
Neylor was productive at Wyoming, catching 44 passes for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns. At 6–3, he will be a welcomed addition to the Longhorns offense.
Ewers is a coup for Texas. But he hasn’t played meaningful snaps in an actual football game since 2020 as a junior star quarterback for Southlake Carroll High School in the Texas 6A State Championship Game.
He then skipped his senior season to reclassify as a member of the 2021 class and reported to Ohio State early.
Since arriving back in Austin, Ewers has shown some flashes of brilliance, but he is still a raw talent that hasn’t thrown a pass in an actual game in 2 years.
The battle for the starting quarterback spot will be between Ewers and Hudson Card. Card missed six games last season, giving way to Casey Thompson.
It should be noted that Thompson led the Big 12 in touchdown passes in 2021 with 24 in 10 starts for a Longhorns offense ranked in the Top 30 in the FBS in both rushing offense and scoring offense.
But Thompson decided that the “allure” of the transfer portal was too much to pass up and transferred to…Nebraska!! The Cornhuskers haven’t won six games or more in a season since 2016.
But the spark for the offense this season may be RB Bijan Robinson. Robinson rushed for 1127 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged 5.78 yards per rush. Robinson posted six games of over 100 yards rushing.
He was named 1st Team All-Big 12.
The Longhorns also return their top receivers in Xavier Worthy (62 catches, 981 yards, 12 TDs) and Jordan Whittington (26 catches, 377 yards, 3 TDs), plus the aforementioned Neyor.
Worthy was also named 1st Team All-Big 12.
Only two starters return on the offensive line, so Sarkisian may have to turn to two of his 5-star freshman recruits in OT Devon Campbell and OT Kelvin Banks, Jr. to fill the void.
On the defensive side of the ball, Texas had less firepower than Sweden did in WWII. This season, they return just four starters, all seniors.
LB DeMarvion Overshown recorded 74 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and blocked a kick.
CB D’Shawn Jamison racked up 48 tackles, recovered a fumble, and intercepted a pass.
FS Anthony Cook made 47 stops, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and recovered a fumble.
NT Keondre Coburn made 15 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and blocked a kick.
Last season, the Longhorns were ranked defensively as follows:
· 100th in total defense
· 62nd in pass defense
· 114th in rushing defense
· 99th in scoring defense
To add insult to injury, Texas had double-digit leads in the 3rd quarter against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Baylor. All three ended up as an “L” in the loss column.
Then to make matters even worse, Texas lost at home to perennial loser Kansas 57–56. This was a game in which Thompson threw six TD passes and rushed for another, totaling 386 yards of total offense. All for naught.
Sarkisian and the Longhorns will host his former boss Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide on September 10th.
Other notable home games include UTSA, Iowa State, and Baylor.
They play Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road.
What will it take for Texas to get back to form as one of the blue bloods of college football? A little bit of everything, really.
Consistent play must come from the quarterback position. Players need to stay healthy. The defense must improve significantly. And players need to buy into the culture that Sarkisian is trying to establish.
If all the above happens, then it will be fun times on the Forty Acres in 2022.
Thanks for reading.
Material for this article was sourced from cfbstats.com and Athlon Sports College Football Preview Magazine, Vol.28/2022, texassports.com.