Only seven weekends separate us from the start of the college football season. The official kickoff for the FBS programs in Texas is on Aug. 27 when North Texas travels to El Paso to face UTEP. The other 10 FBS programs in Texas start the following weekend. As we crawl towards the season through excessive heat and baseball-induced boredom, let’s take a look at the most overrated and underrated units in the Lone Star State, starting with the offense.
The talent inside Texas’ quarterback room is not up for debate. Quinn Ewers was on track to be the top-ranked quarterback in a 2022 class that included Clemson’s Cade Klubnik and Texas A&M’s Conner Weigman before Ewers reclassified and skipped his senior season at Southlake Carroll for the greener (NIL) pastures at Ohio State. He never threw a pass for the Buckeyes before transferring to Texas. Though clearly talented (the only other prep quarterback I’ve seen come close to Ewers’ arm talent was Trevor Lawrence), we’ve never seen Ewers be successful at the college level. He hasn’t thrown a pass in a game since his junior year of high school in a defeat to Westlake during the Class 6A Division I state championship game.
If Hudson Card was the answer the Lake Travis product would’ve beaten out Casey Thompson in 2021. We’re all assuming the combination of Ewers’ pure skill and Steve Sarkisian’s offensive acumen mean instant success for the Longhorn passing attack, but is it going to be one of the best in the nation as some believe? I’m not quite sure yet. I need to see the evidence first. A lot of media, and fans, need to study epistemology. Guessing correctly doesn’t mean you knew the result. If I pick heads and it lands heads, I didn’t know that is how the coin-flip was going to end up.
Underrated: Texas Tech
The Red Raiders pulled off an incredible feat in the modern era of football by keeping three starter-level quarterbacks on campus during a coaching transition. Tyler Shough, Donavan Smith, and Behren Morton remained in Lubbock and avoided the transfer portal after the arrival of Joey McGuire. Shough, a one-time Oregon quarterback, was injured for most of 2021 but arrived on campus with high expectations. He’s my pick to take the first snap under center for Texas Tech in 2022. Smith proved a capable starter late in the season, and Morton was highly touted coming out of high school. McGuire hinted at all three earning playing time and it looks like that message is working. New offensive coordinator Zach Kittley knows how to put his quarterbacks in the best position possible to maximize their talents. Look what he did with Bailey Zappe at the FCS level and at Western Kentucky.
The loss of Ulysses Bentley IV stung the Mustangs. Many are assuming the stable of running backs will be fine thanks to the addition of Camar Wheaton (Alabama transfer) and the healthy return of TJ McDaniel. But we haven’t seen Wheaton at the collegiate level, and no one is sure of how McDaniel, who took a unique route through rehabilitation, will hold up in live action. That leaves Tre Siggers and Tyler Lavine as the knowns in the running back room. Both of those players are fine college athletes, but neither are game breakers in the mold of Bentley.
Sure, the loss of Zach Evans to the transfer portal (Ole Miss) hurts the Horned Frogs, but it doesn’t cripple TCU’s backfield. Kendre Miller led TCU with 7.5 yards a carry and seven rushing touchdowns in 2021 with only nine fewer carries than Evans. Emari Demercado and Daimarqua Foster also return after showing flashes in 2021. New head coach Sonny Dykes added Louisiana transfer Emani Bailey, who rushed for 642 yards and eight touchdowns with an average of 6.3 yards per carry last season for the Rajun Cajuns. Quarterbacks Max Duggan and Chandler Morris are also threats with their feet, and the TCU offensive line is better than most realize after a few new additions through the transfer market and returners such as Steve Avila and Andrew Coker.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
Quarterback Clayton Tune doesn’t lack a star receiver, but the Cougars do have question marks beyond Tank Dell and tight end Christian Trahan. Dell, who was named the best wide receiver in Texas in the 2022 Dave Campbell’s Texas Football 2022 summer magazine, led Houston with 90 catches in 2021. The next highest number was 37, and that belonged to Trahan at tight end. Only one other receiver caught more than 30 passes and no one returning caught more than 26. New faces such as transfers Sam Brown and Joseph Manjack IV, as well as true freshman Matthew Golden must step up quickly, so all the defensive attention doesn’t roll to Dell.
Losing Jake Bailey to the transfer portal (SMU) was an unfortunate piece of off-season news for the Owls, but I’d argue the position is improved in 2022 despite that loss. Cedric Patterson III was the best receiver for the Owls for the bulk of his career. New faces such as Sam Crawford (Tulsa), Tyson Thompson (Houston Baptist) and Isaiah Esdale (West Virginia) are dynamic weapons. Former quarterback Luke McCaffrey moved to wide receiver and looked like a natural in the spring. Finding a quarterback to consistently throw the football to the right team might be a challenge, but the wide receiver room is better than most realize.
Overrated: Texas A&M
Let’s get this out of the way: Overrated doesn’t mean bad. We placed sophomores Bryce Foster and Reueben Fatheree II on the All-Texas College teams in the summer magazine and guard Layden Robinson might be the best player left off those lists. But an offensive line needs more than three quality players to be successful, especially in the SEC, and I’m not sure enough people are concerned with the loss of first-round draft pick Kenyon Green. The right-side of the offensive line looks tremendous. The left side offers a few question marks. Trey Zuhn III has big shoes to fill at left tackle and left guard is a position still up in the air heading into preseason camp.
Most of the rushing success for the Roadrunners over the last couple of seasons was credited to running back Sincere McCormick. I’m of the opinion that the running game is more about the offensive line than the running back. Give me a great offensive line and an average running back over a great running back behind an average offensive line. Four out of the five starters return up front for UTSA. The only loss was at left tackle, but Terrell Haynes (LG), Ahofitu Maka (C), Kevin Daivs (RG) and Makai Hart (RT) form the best returning unit in Conference USA. North Texas deserves a mention here, as well.
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