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This is supposed to be the year that Texas returns to the College Football Playoff conversation. Stop me if you have heard that one before!
The Longhorns are coming off of an 8-5 season in Steve Sarkisian’s second year and will hope to build on the record in 2023. Anything less than 10 wins during their final season in the Big 12 would be a disappointment. They have to reach that mark with the training wheels still on before joining the SEC or it could be a real wakeup call upon arrival to the best conference in football.
If Texas is truly “back,” the offense will be the driving force. Although Sarkisian’s defense may not have the same level of talent as the offense, it is full of vets who returned from a group that finished second in the conference in total and scoring defense last fall.
So long as the defense can do its job well enough, the offense should out-score anybody. Should is the key word.
The Longhorns have a bevy of five-star recruits at receiver and in the backfield. They have one of the best pass-catcher groups in the country with Xavier Worthy, Johntay Cook, Jordan Whittingham, Ja’Tavion Sanders, AD Mitchell and Isaiah Neyor.
Mitchell is fully healthy after a torn ACL cost him his first season in Austin following his transfer from Georgia and Neyor averaged 20 yards per catch at Wyoming last season. Both guys are poised for a breakout year.
Although replacing Bijan Robinson is no easy task, Jonathan Brooks, Jaydon Blue and Keilan Robinson should be a strong rotation behind one of the better offensive lines in the country. All five guys in the trenches have All-Big 12-caliber talent.
Texas’ success comes down to quarterback play.
A pair of former No. 1 overall recruits headline the room in Arch Manning and Quinn Ewers. In between the two five-star signal-callers is highly-touted four-star Maalik Murphy— who required a big NIL deal to keep him from transferring during the offseason.
All five guys in Austin are shredded. The weight room has been good to them.
Ewers is the incumbent starter. He is fully healthy after an A.C. Joint issue hindered him during 2022.
It is his job and he is all-business.
However, Murphy and Manning are chomping at the bit.
Ewers had flashes of greatness last season. There were moments in which he looked terrible. The injury may have played a role in those struggles and 8-5 was not considered a success.
If Ewers comes out slow, will Sarkisian go to his bench? One Big 12 coach thinks so.
The anonymous Big 12 defensive coordinator told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that he thinks Ewers could get the hook in favor of Manning. He thinks that it is a matter of “when” not “if.”
Damn man, it’s really hard to not be successful when you’ve got all those weapons around you.
Last year, (Texas was) really solid at running back, so you don’t put a lot of pressure on your quarterback. I know he’s going to get a lot of hype and all that, but I don’t think he’s as good [as other Big 12 quarterbacks].
I would watch for the other kid [Manning] to unseat him at some point.— Anonymous Big 12 defensive coordinator, via ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg
His belief goes against a lot of the signs thus far. Manning isn’t quite ready yet.
The first grandson of football might take a redshirt. Murphy may even get the opportunity to step into the starting job before the five-star freshman.
For an anonymous Big 12 defensive coordinator to say that about Ewers is bold. For him to say that Manning could take over before the end of the season is almost ignorant.
Maybe it’s just an inkling? Maybe he knows something that the public doesn’t?