The 2021 season produced two new title contenders in the Big 12 Conference as Baylor and Oklahoma State faced off in the Big 12 Championship Game. The conference announced plans to replace Texas and Oklahoma in 2025 by adding Houston, UCF, Cincinnati and BYU in 2023. The 2022 season will be the last season of the Big 12 Conference as it’s been known for the last decade.
There will inevitably be more seismic shifts this season after UCLA and USC announced intentions to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten Conference. Whether the Big 12 adds more schools or has more members poached by other conferences remains to be seen, but this will be the last year with just 10 member institutions in the conference. Next up in the Big 12 preseason power rankings is the Texas Longhorns. You can read previous installments of the series below.
No. 4 Texas Longhorns
When I started writing these team previews several weeks ago I imagined Texas competing with the top teams in the Big 12. The Longhorns have the talent to do so, once again, though the depth might not be there yet. If the starting 11 on both sides of the football are all that’s considered, Texas should be one of the best teams in the nation this year. The problem is UT is already down two starters before the season has even started.
Geoff Ketchum of Orangbloods.com reported that both transfer wide receiver Isaiah Neyor and veteran offensive lineman Junior Angilau suffered season-ending ACL tears during a preseason scrimmage.
Angilau has started 34 games for Texas and would have been one of the better offensive lineman in the conference this season. Neyor would have likely been the Horns second best receiver. Instead, Texas will have to play younger players with far less experience at those positions.
Per Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, WR Isaiah Neyor and OL Junior Angilau will miss the 2022 season with injuries suffered in Saturday’s camp scrimmage. #HookEm— Jeff Howe (@JeffHowe247) August 15, 2022
Texas had a lot of question marks coming into the season, but now there is even more reason for concern. Losing Angilau and Neyor is no small thing as those two won’t be easy to replace. UT still has plenty of talent, but the physicality and discipline will have to be there as well.
Everything fell off the rails for Texas last year in the second half of the Red River Rivalry game. Texas couldn’t maintain physicality and lacked discipline as games wore on. The loss to Oklahoma kicked off a six game losing streak.
#Texas #Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian:— Chip Brown (@ChipBrown247) August 2, 2022
"We did a heck of a job in preparing our team to play (last year). Our team went out and performed early in games at a high level. Where I need to be better is how our players and staff respond to adversity in-game."
Responding to adversity has not been a strong suit for the Longhorns over the last decade. That was a point of emphasis for coach Steve Sarkisian this offseason. That first hit of adversity is already here.
The quarterback competition between Ohio State transfer Quinn Ewers and Hudson Card has lingered well into August with no clear answer. That’s reminiscent of last season when Card couldn’t separate from Casey Thompson, who has since transferred to Nebraska, in fall camp.
Ewers originally committed to Texas before changing course and committing to Ohio State as a junior at Southlake (Texas) Carroll High. When college players were able to profit off of NIL starting the July before Ewers’ senior season, he decided to enroll an entire year early at Ohio State in order to profit. Even though Ewers is a redshirt freshman at UT, he is the same age as a true freshman.
While Ewers rode the bench at Ohio State last year, Card was eventually named the starter at Texas before being benched in favor of Thompson. Sarkisian was quoted in May at a speaking engagement as wanting to decide on a quarterback as soon as possible. That the competition is still going with just two weeks until kickoff and three weeks away from a home showdown with Alabama is a tad concerning.
There is a ton of potential at the quarterback position, but I have no clue which quarterback will win the job and if that QB will be the one to hold down the job well into the season. That’s a question Sarkisian and the Horns will need to settle early in the season.
I saw both Ewers and Card play in high school, though I only saw Card play once. Ewers has all the potential in the world. He could make throws I’ve never seen another high school player make before. His weakness was making poor decisions and forcing the ball into coverage under pressure. If opposing defenses can get pressure on Ewers there is a good chance he will make a mistake. Or, maybe not. I haven’t seen him play since January 2021. Maybe he has improved since then. Either way, that’s an issue he needs to address, especially with the injury to Angilau and the inconsistent play on the offensive line at UT over the years.
Bijan Robinson returns at running back and could legitimately win the Heisman trophy if he gets good enough blocking. Robinson is one of the most electric players in college football and should have a good season despite the offensive line. Roschon Johnson is one of the better second string backs in the nation and brings a change of pace from Robinson with some physicality. Keilan Robinson, Jonathan Brooks and true freshman Jaydon Blue could all contribute as well. If there’s one position Sarkisian doesn’t have to worry about, it’s the running backs.
Wide receiver looked like a deep group a few weeks ago. Losing Neyor certainly hurts, and Alabama transfer Agiye Hall will be out, at least temporarily, for conduct detrimental to the team. Hall was arrested for criminal mischief as he supposedly tried to remove a parking boot from his car. Sarkisian suspended Hall based off of multiple incidents, but has a plan to bring Hall back to the team.
Texas WR Agiye Hall has been suspended after his arrest late Thursday for criminal mischief. Here is the statement from Steve Sarkisian. pic.twitter.com/XlZu2prQZi— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) August 12, 2022
Xavier Worthy has the potential to be one of the best receivers in college football. Either Ewers or Card will have to get him the ball often. If Worthy doesn’t have a great season, Texas won’t have a great season. The same is true for Robinson. Together, Worthy and Robinson might be the best receiver and running back combo in all of college football.
Jordan Whittington is another player at UT with loads of potential. The dynamic receiver hasn’t been able to stay healthy during his time on the 40 acres, but should play a large role in the Texas offense from the outset of the season. Iowa State transfer Tarique Milton will also play a large role as he brings needed experience to the receiving corps. True freshman Brenen Thompson could also contribute if needed.
Former five-star recruit Ja’Tavion Sanders will take over at tight end, along with Alabama transfer Jahleel Billingsley. Sanders is one of the most talented high school players I’ve ever seen play. That talent will need to translate quickly and Sanders will need to mesh with a group of young and inexperienced players and experienced transfers. The bottom line is, there will be a lot of turnover from the offense Texas used last year and the group the Horns trot out against UL Monroe next month.
Angilau would have been the headliner and leader on the offensive line. Christian Jones returns to play right tackle and center Jake Majors is also back. Angilau would have given the Horns three returning starters on the offensive line. Instead, Texas will have to break in some of the prized recruits brought in at the position.
Andrej Karic has some experience and could start at left tackle. True freshman Kelvin Banks and Devon Campbell should both get an opportunity to play this season, and may even have to start games. Sophomore Hayden Conner figures to play a factor as well. The offensive line will need to be better than it was last season, especially with so many young players on the offensive side of the football.
The defensive line struggled last season, particularly against the run. UT returns most of its defensive line with six returners. Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo are back along with Alfred Collins and T’Vondre Sweat. Byron Murphy II is in his second year in the program and has really come along nicely this offseason. Vernon Broughton has also attracted the attention of his head coach as a potential playmaker at the position.
Texas football coach Steve Sarkisian said he can feel Keondre Coburn as a pass rusher in practice. He said two defensive linemen who have stood out in training camp are Vernon Broughton and Byron Murphy II— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) August 8, 2022
Norte Dame transfer Ovie Oghoufo should start as an edge rusher with Texas returning little production at the position. Freshman Justice Finkley is an option and, according to Sam Khan Jr. of The Athletic, Sarkisian is considering moving linebacker DeMarvion Overshown down to edge rusher in certain packages.
Overshown returns to lead the linebacking corps after leading the Longhorns in tackles last season. Luke Brockermeyer also returns to give the Horns a solid duo at linebacker. Jaylan Ford, David Gbenda and James Madison transfer Diamonte Tucker- Dorsey will also contribute at the position.
The only returning cornerback is D’Shawn Jamison, who will pair with Ohio State transfer Ryan Watts. Sophomore Jamier Johnson should contribute, along with redshirt freshman Ishmael Ibraheem and true freshmen Jaylon Guilbeau and Terrance Brooks. Speaking from experience, Ibraheem and Brooks are both super talented, but both are also young and lack experience.
Anthony Cook, Kitan Crawford and Jahdae Barron figure to round out the secondary at the safety and nickel positions. J.D. Coffey III and B.J. Allen are young, but could rotate in and play a role in the secondary as well.
Something that should also be noted is the hire of running backs coach Tashard Choice and wide receiver coach Brennan Marion. The latter coached the Biletnikoff winner, Jordan Addison, at Pittsburgh last year. He should have an opportunity to go back-to-back with Worthy this year. Sarkisian also brought on former TCU head coach Gary Patterson to help out with the defense.
Alabama is about the toughest opponent to schedule in non-conference play. It won’t be long until Texas and Alabama are conference mates. This little get-to-know-you matchup will take place in Austin in week two and serves as the Horns first real test this year. UTSA isn’t the cupcake non-conference game it used to be either.
Texas Longhorns Schedule 2022
|September 3||UL- Monroe||W|
|September 17||UT- San Antonio||W|
|September 24||@ Texas Tech||W|
|October 1||West Virginia||W|
|October 8||Oklahoma (Dallas)||W|
|October 15||Iowa State||W|
|October 22||@ Oklahoma State||L|
|November 5||@ Kansas State||L|
|November 19||@ Kansas||W|
|Overall Record||8-4 (6-3)|
Texas can’t afford to lose too many games it should win. I think it will happen and I picked the Horns road game against Kansas State as that game. Texas could also lose to Oklahoma and finish 7-5. All things considered, I think 7-5 with those five games as the losses wouldn’t be a disappointing season in Austin.
Losing Neyor and Angilau is a big deal. It won’t be easy to replace those two players. Either Ewers or Card could use all the playmakers and protection they can get. These losses hinder the ceiling of both position groups. That, in turn, could have a negative impact on the quarterback.
Disclaimer: I will be posting my picks weekly on Tallysight once again this year. This is just my best guess as of July and these picks are subject to change once I see what actually ends up playing out on the field.