With the transfer portal officially opening, we took a look at what should be some of the primary positional targets for the 13 FBS programs in Texas. This isn’t to say that these are the only problem areas for these teams, but the nature of the portal is typically to find quick college-ready fixes, and these are the biggest areas of concern in our eyes.
Because it’d be too easy to list “Quarterback” for most of the state, I went ahead and listed a secondary position for a few as well.
Baylor – Quarterback and Receiver
With Blake Shapen entering the transfer portal, new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital obviously needs his man behind center. Neither Sawyer Roberton nor RJ Martinez showed enough to warrant going into spring camp unopposed by a new name. Shapen could always come back but that’s far from a given with his stagnant production the last few years with Baylor losing receiving and offensive line talent around him.
But with that comes the need for outside playmakers. Another symptom of Baylor’s recent downfall has been the inability to replace the likes of RJ Sneed (573 yards in 2021) and Tyquan Thornton (948 yards in 2021). Ketron Jackson (489 yards), Monaray Baldwin (623 yards) and Josh Cameron (224 yards) just haven’t developed into game-breaking pass catchers to keep defenses honest and from focusing on the likes of Richard Reese in the backfield.
You could also list offensive line here as well, although the unit does have young talent that could be worth developing under new tutelage.
Houston – Defensive Line
Houston’s rush defense was 77th in the country allowing 4.3 yards per carry and 168.8 yards per game which is down from 143.1 yards in 2022. Tulane’s defense averaged just 96.9 rushing yards allowed per game – ninth in the nation. The Cougars also struggled to rush the passer generating only a 6.11 percent sack percentage, 67th in the country.
Willie Fritz is known to be an offensive-oriented coach, but his Green Wave defenses were consistently well-coached against the run and generated a respectable amount of pass rush, something he’ll be key to address in the off-season at Houston.
North Texas – Quarterback and Defensive Line
You can’t name another program right now in Texas, arguably in the nation, that’s been more impactfully hit by the transfer portal right now than North Texas. Eric Morris’ first season in Denton finished 5-7 a year after they played for a Conference-USA Championship a year ago but the pieces were there for a breakout in 2024. Chandler Rogers threw for over 3,000 yards despite not starting the first two games of the season. Ayo Adyei and Ja’Mori Maclin also notched over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving respectively. All are gone along with main contributors like starting center Ethan Miner, Febechi Nwaiwu and others.
For Morris’ 2024 to go better than this year, he’ll have to nail another dynamite quarterback signing like he did with Rogers from UL-Monroe. Ken Seals (Vanderbilt) and Brayden Schager (Hawaii) are DFW-native names to maybe watch.
But before North Texas fans can even think about a bowl game, the defensive line needs to be fixed too. Matt Caponi’s defense was putrid, particularly at the start of games, surrendering 6.5 yards per game – 125th in the nation. The run defense was tied for second-to-last in the nation allowing nearly six yards per carry and generated just 18 sacks all season.
Rice – Quarterback and Running Back
Luckily Mike Bloomgren’s squad weathered the storm once JT Daniels went down for the season, but until that point, Rice hinged everything on the veteran transfer quarterback and receiver Luke McCaffrey. Daniels threw for 2,443 yards for a team that generated 4,521 total yards. Quarterback play has plagued Rice during Bloomgren’s tenure outside of this season and unless the team thinks AJ Padgett is the future, it’ll need to be addressed again this off-season.
One area that needs a slight boost is the backfield. Dean Connors has proved to be a reliable option toward the end of the season running for over 100 yards twice and averaging 6.7 yards per carry. But behind him is another story. No other running back averaged better than 3.7 yards per carry.
Sam Houston – Offensive Line
You could list quarterback here too with Keegan Shoemaker leaving but anyone who saw the Bearkats’ first-year struggles knows that it will primarily come down to the offensive line. Injuries played a significant part in KC Keeler’s team struggling too but the lack of protection for Keegan Shoemaker (1.5 sacks allowed per game) and the inability to run the ball with any effectiveness (3.0 yards per carry as a team) handcuffed any semblance of a consistent offense in Huntsville.
SMU – Receiver
Everybody eats in SMU’s offense and as historic this season has been there’s been a lack of big-play threat from Rhett Lashlee’s team. Currently tight end RJ Maryland leads the team in receiving with 518 yards, which is commendable. But the best versions of the new era of SMU football have an element of verticality that this team lacks. Heading into the ACC, it won’t be a surprise if SMU prioritizes a playmaking wideout to stretch defenses more consistently.
TCU –Edge and Linebacker
To avoid listing “Quarterback” for half of the state, I chose to go another route for TCU on the other side of the ball. Obviously, the Horned Frogs have to come to terms with whether or not they feel Chandler Morris or Josh Hoover is the future at quarterback but defensively TCU was a near-disaster surrendering 421.5 yards per game (106th).
The defensive line was fairly solid on the interior with Soni Misi and Tymon Mitchell. But the edge is where TCU could use some help. As well at depth at linebacker with Namdi Obiazor emerging as a viable option after Johnny Hodges went down with injury. Hodges should be back but the options around him and Obiazor could be rangier to assist with Joe Gillespie’s 3-3-5.
Texas – Defensive Back
The one weakness right now in Texas’ defense is the secondary, more specifically on the outside. Luckily Texas’ front seven has been stout enough and the safeties have been effective enough for the Horns not to get beat deep a lot this season. But if there was one area Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense should be solidified, it’s at cornerback alongside young playmakers like freshman Malik Muhammad who has emerged as the future of the position.
Texas A&M – Defensive Line and Defensive Back
With the massive losses to the transfer portal like Walter Nolen and LT Overton, Texas A&M will have to essentially rebuild its defensive line under Mike Elko. Terry Price’s passing over the off-season and Elijah Robinson’s hiring at Syracuse creates a lack of relationships built between the incoming staff and the current crop of defensive linemen so more exists may continue.
Luckily Sean Spencer has a qualified developer and recruiter with established relationships of current portal players like Princely Umanmielen. Defensive back is another area where the Aggies could use some work to likely replace graduate Josh DeBerry.
Texas State – Defensive Line
Jonathan Patke’s exotic, aggressive defense will generate more havoc plays (tackles for loss, turnovers) than it likely will straight-up defensive stops. With the brand of offense that Texas State plays, the Bobcats are better suited in a style of defense that gets the ball back to its offense as fast as possible. The Bobcats also a respectable pass rush with a 7.27 sack rate thanks to an aggressive blitz approach.
But Texas State was pretty bad against the run allowing 161.5 yards per game and could use some interior help along the defensive line.
Texas Tech – Offensive Tackle
Texas Tech’s pass protection has been the weakness of Joey McGuire’s first two seasons in Lubbock. Multiple quarterback injuries have stemmed from an inability to protect well enough to get them through a whole season. With Behren Morton seemingly the future and Tahj Brooks no longer there to buoy the offense, the Red Raiders need to address its biggest hole. This year the team did improve from a sack rate of 6.97 to 4.83 but there’s still room for more development in that area.
UTEP – Quarterback and Receiver
Gavin Hardison is officially done at UTEP’s quarterback and although his performances were sporadic, when he was surrounded with effective weapons the Miner offense had a big-play identity. We’ll wait to see what Scott Walden’s identity is on offense but choosing his signal caller and replacing the likes of breakout wideout Kelly Akharaiyi are chief among the biggest needs.
UTSA – Quarterback and Receiver
For the first time in a long time, Frank Harris will not step behind center for Jeff Traylor’s Roadrunners. While Owen McCown flashed some promise in his spot-duty and a start against Tennessee this season, was it enough to be given the keys to the program?
Along with quarterback, UTSA needs to find where its newest crop of pass catchers will come from alongside with breakout freshman Devin McCuin (518 yards).
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