2022 record: 8-5 (+3 wins from 2021)
Texas Power Poll ranking: 3 of 12
The Longhorns won three more games than they did in year one under Steve Sarkisian. It was the program’s most wins since 2019 and only the third time to win at least eight contests since the start of 2014. An improved defense should receive most of the credit. Texas was 28th nationally and second in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing 21.6. That number was 28.4 in the five losses, which was 18th best in the country.
The rushing defense, anchored by a stout defensive tackle group headlined by Keondre Coburn, held opponents to 125.69 yards per game, which was 33rd in the FBS ranks. The unit did a great job of limiting red zone touchdowns and plays over 20 yards. The Longhorns allowed just 51.22 percent of red zone trips to end in touchdowns and gave up only 48 plays of 20 yards or more – both ranked 25th nationally.
The emergence of linebacker Jaylan Ford, who is set to return in 2023, allowed the athletic DeMarvion Overshown to roam free and help get after the passer. Texas only finished with 27 sacks in 13 games, but the defense ranked near the top in pressures created throughout the season.
The running back duo of Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson headlined an offense that ranked 24thnationally in scoring with 34.5 points per game. Robinson ran for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns, adding 314 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver. Johnson averaged six yards a carry on 93 attempts. Young tight end JT Sanders was also a bright spot on offense.
The offensive line took a giant step forward thanks to an influx of young talent. Left tackle Kelvin Banks looked like a future top 10 NFL Draft pick as a true freshman. Cole Hutson and DJ Campbell also impressed at guard.
Quinn Ewers was hot-and-cold in his first year as a college starter, which is probably expected for a player who skipped his senior season in high school to redshirt at Ohio State. He dealth with nagging injuries as a junior at Southlake Carroll, so his last full season of football was as a sophomore three years ago. He suffered a Week 2 shoulder injury that derailed his early momentum and never found rhythm on his deep balls the rest of the way. Texas ranked 36th in rushing offense, but only 56th in passing offense. The team’s redzone touchdown percentage was 27.58, which was 65th in the country.
The passing defense was the Achilles heel of that unit, as well. Texas was 33rd against the run, but only 90th in yards allowed through the air. That resulted in Texas allowing 41.31 percent of its opponents third down attempts, which was 94th nationally.
Texas continues to struggle in one-possession games during the Sark era. The Longhorns went 2-5 in those games during the 2022 season. Their five losses were by an average of 4.8 points per game. The offense regressed during those losses. Texas averaged 34.5 points per game overall in 2022, but that fell to 23.4 in the five losses.
The team was 1-5 in one-possession games back in 2021. Sark is 3-10 in one-possession games as head coach of the Longhorns. Only two of the 12 losses he’s suffered while on The 40 Acres was by more than eight points. Texas is on the cusp of conference and national relevancy if the Longhorns learn how to close.
Running back: A+
Wide receiver/tight end: B
Offensive line: B+
Defensive line: A-
BIGGEST OFFSEASON QUESTION
Is Texas a Big 12 contender?
The Big 12 is winnable. Baylor made the jump into contention in 2021, as did TCU and Kansas State last season. Texas has two five-star quarterbacks on roster, a former Mr. Texas Football waiting in the wings at running back, weapons galore at wide receiver and tight end, and an offensive line that returns every starter and adds more elite depth through the 2023 recruiting cycle. Oh, and the defense turned the corner and became one of the best in the Big 12. The only thing that can stop Texas from competing for a Big 12 title in 2023 is Texas. The Longhorns are always talented enough, but are they mature enough to play winning football for 12 weeks?
WAY TOO EARLY 2023 OUTLOOK
A trip to Alabama to face Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide provides an early litmus test for the Longhorns. A one-point home loss in 2022 was a moral victory that jump-started a renewed belief inside the Texas locker room. With an SEC move imminent, Texas needs to prove again that it back in the same weight class as programs such as Alabama. The Big 12 is crowded in 2023 thanks to the additions of Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU. But Texas will enter the season near the top 10 nationally and as one of the betting favorites to win the Big 12.
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