Steve Sarkisian continues to stockpile talent from the transfer portal and the recruiting trail, but it might not be enough to lift the Longhorns to an immediate turnaround this fall.
The additions of Alabama receiver Agiye Hall and Tide-tight end Jahleel Billingsley add flash to the offense. Wyoming’s Isaiah Neyor provides a steady and big-play threat at receiver,. Ohio State cornerback Ryan Watts fills a hole in the boundary that appeared unfixable just a few months ago. Then there is the program changer, Ohio State quarterback Quinn Evers. For all the attention on his hair and NIL deals, the reality is he could be the biggest and best thing to happen to the program since Vince Young strolled into the corner of the end zone at the Rose Bowl.
The Longhorns have been killers on the recruiting trail, particularly the portal, and it will prove fruitful, but will the intricate plan work immediately? Picking up four-star talent at skill positions will always divert attention from other issues, and the Longhorns can’t afford to forget what actually led to debilitating losses in Sark’s first season and their first six-game losing streak since 1956. The Longhorns’ offensive line is still subpar, even by Big 12 standards, and without immediate help arriving from the portal, why assume things will be any better after the disastrous performance in the trenches last season against the likes of Arkansas?
Bijan Robinson might be one of the nation’s best tailbacks, but he’s only human and his legs can only grind out so many yards after contact. Evers might prove to be one of the nation’s top three quarterbacks, but playing behind an offensive line that allowed sacks on 7.2% of standard downs last season (110th nationally, according to Football Outsiders), is a dangerous proposition.
The good news for Sark is hope springs in the summer, when seven tremendous offensive linemen arrive from the 2022 recruiting class. Five-star prospects Kelvin Banks and Devon Campbell will be the first on campus in June, and tackle prospect Neto Umeozulu will be in the mix, too. Still, the Longhorns are young and counting on true freshmen in the trenches at several spots has never been conducive to overnight success.
That’s what makes Sark’s philosophy so intriguing. He searched for immediate help at the skill spots and, yet, at the weakest spots he turned to youth and development, a process that usually requires two years to build suitable starters in the trenches. It’s certainly curious for the former Alabama offensive coordinator to not seek at least one or two linemen who could make an impact — and then supplement the new starters with first-year backups (five instead of seven high school seniors) who can develop into starters in 2023 and beyond.
It would be a shame to see the aforementioned talent from the portal go to waste in 2022 if the offensive line isn’t repaired this fall. Texas has top 10 talent but a bad offensive line will drop he program to a borderline top-25 team. Alabama’s march into Austin in Week 2 will show whether Sark’s offseason approach was equal parts substance and style, or if he just purchased a shiny new car with no engine.
The Spring Dish is a daily college football column from national reporter Brandon Marcello covering the biggest stories of the spring.