Nov 10, 2012; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns helmet featuring a DKR logo in honor of former head coach Darrell Royal before a game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE(Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE – US PRESSWIRE) A look at some […]
A look at some key issues for the Longhorns heading into the 2021 season...
The quarterback battle
This one is obvious, but we’d be remiss not to mention it. We don’t yet know if head coach Steve Sarkisian has picked a favorite between redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card and redshirt junior quarterback Casey Thompson, but the two seemed evenly matched in Texas’ spring game April 24. There’s a better than good chance we’ll see both quarterbacks receive playing time early in the season.
Wide receiver development
Texas has to get more production from its receivers next season if it wants to meet Sarkisian’s lofty expectations. The Longhorns do not return a wide receiver next year who played in all 10 games in 2020 and only one returning wideout finished with over 300 receiving yards. Redshirt junior receiver Joshua Moore, Texas’ leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season, had four games with two or fewer receptions after an explosive start to the year.
Loss of edge rushers
Texas lost its two sack leaders in 2020, Joseph Ossai and Ta’Quon Graham, to the NFL draft, leaving a handful of question marks about which defenders will pressure opposing quarterbacks next season. Graduate transfer linebacker Ray Thornton, sophomore defensive linemen Moro Ojomo, senior Jacoby Jones and a few other pass rushers managed to make their presence felt in the Orange-White spring game, but much of that can be chalked up to squaring off against backup offensive tackles. We likely won’t be able to fully assess Texas’ pass-rushing situation until at least Week 3 of the regular season, but it’s fair to wave a caution flag.
Texas has seriously struggled to protect its signal callers in recent years. Texas ranked 71st in sacks allowed in 2020 out of 130 FBS schools with 2.3 per game, a significant improvement from its 110th ranking in 2019, but still far too high for Sarkisian. The head coach has also said his quarterbacks are still struggling with pocket awareness and have been sacked too many times in practice, although he hopes to improve that area in time.
Make no mistake, the Texas standard is hard to reach. Longhorn fans have long held the expectation of “championship or bust,” but Texas has only reached one New Year’s Six Bowl game in the last decade, although Sarkisian all but promised that would change in 2021. The first-year head coach said in his opening press conference that building a championship team may not take as long as people would think and that “the hype is good, the hype is great.” Only time will tell if Sarkisian’s statement is true.