The Texas 50: Most important players in Texas ranked no. 40-31

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The state of Texas is now home to 13 FBS programs in 2023 thanks to Sam Houston's move to Conference USA. Our list of the 50-most important college football players in the Lone Star State includes at least three players from each of those schools. This is not a list of the best players in the state - for that, visit this link for our All-Texas College Team. It is intended to provide readers with the knowledge of who the most pivotal players on the team. Sometimes that means the best players, and other times it means players who need to take the next step to propel the program to more success.

We ranked 50-41 last week. We'll release 30-21 when there are 30 days until Week 1. 

No. 40 – Rice WR Luke McCaffrey 

More: The junior led Rice last year in receptions (58) and all-purpose yards (903) en route to the George Martin Award as team MVP in 2022. He’ll need another strong year for the Owls’ offense to reach new heights. The program lost fellow receivers Bradley Rozner to the transfer portal and Cedric Patterson to a career-ending injury in the summer. McCaffrey must lead the way as new names such as Tyson Thompson, Matt Sykes, and Kobie Campbell step up. 

No. 39 – TCU WR JoJo Earle 

No. 38 – Texas A&M OL Bryce Foster 

More: In many ways, the Texas A&M offense goes as far as Foster takes them. When he’s been healthy and on the field, the Aggies have moved the ball and scored points. When he’s been hurt, like for most of 2022, the Texas A&M offense gets bogged down. Foster is the quarterback on the offensive line. The Katy Taylor product is strong enough to handle the giant defensive tackles in the SEC and athletic enough to pull and get out in space on sweeps or in the screen game. He’ll be an NFL draft pick and his ability to stay on the field is a big talking point heading into 2023. 

No. 37 – Texas Tech WR Jerand Bradley 

No. 36 – Baylor DB Bryson Jackson 

More: The Baylor defense reached its peak during the 2021 season thanks, in large part, to the play of Jalen Pitre, who now stars in the NFL for the Houston Texans. Dave Aranda hopes a familiar face can replace that production with Jackson moving to the hybrid safety position that Pitre played so well two seasons ago. Jackson, Mansfield Lake Ridge product, is in his seventh year at Baylor. He’s been mostly a special teams ace and pass rushing specialist in his first six seasons. 

No. 35 – Texas DL Byron Murphy 

No. 34 – Houston OL Patrick Paul 

No. 33 – UTSA RB Kevorian Barnes 

More: Every defense facing the Roadrunners knows that job no. 1 is limiting the passing attack led by quarterback Frank Harris and a talented group of receivers. UTSA hopes to take advantage of that with balance, and Barnes came on in 2022 as a star in the making. He was the CUSA Freshman of the Year thanks to 845 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He averaged over six yards a carry. He’ll be asked to do even more as a sophomore in 2023. 

No. 32 – SMU WR Jordan Kerley 

No. 31 – TCU LB Johnny Hodges 

More: The Navy transfer became a key cog to a TCU defense that helped the Horned Frogs win the Fiesta Bowl and reach a national championship game. He enters the 2023 season as a preseason All-Texas and Big 12 selection. He’ll be a leader of the defense and possibly its leading tackler this season. Hodges is a natural leader who fits perfectly into Joe Gillespie’s defensive scheme. He should be even better in year 2 on campus. The TCU defense returns a lot of production and should be the strength of the team, at least early on. 

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