What we have learned about the current state of Texas football

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After reeling in the biggest name on the coaching market in Steve Sarkisian, there were sky-high expectations for Texas’ football team.

Why wouldn’t there be? Texas was coming off a season in which they had gone 7-3, and they also were returning a good chunk of veteran players. This season started off strong with a 4-1 record, and their lone loss was to what turned out to be a solid Arkansas team.

Everything changed during the second half of the Red River Showdown, which saw the Longhorns blow their first of three consecutive double-digit leads, while also marking the start of a losing streak that likely won’t end until next season.

Since then, the team has been an utter disaster, as neither of the quarterbacks have been able to figure it out and play consistently, the defense is consistently exposed by every opposing running back, and the offensive line is pitiful.

Now, as Texas fans are prone to do, there have been plenty of overreactions as a result of the recent struggles, but some have are quite warranted. While it was far too unreasonable to expect them to contend for a national championship this year, not being relevant in the Big 12 and being sub .500 was also not what anyone expected.

Sarkisian has some major questions to answer, and he must do so quickly.

Here is what we have learned about the current state of the Texas football team over the last few weeks.

The transfer portal will be Texas' best friend

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The talent and proper personnel is simply not in Austin right now. Outside of a handful of players, there could and likely should be new starters all over the board next season. Texas needs to revamp the offensive line, which is the position they should hit the hardest in the portal. As it currently stands, there are a ton of experienced high level players in the portal, and the season is not even over yet.

While the offensive line should be the biggest concern, it wouldn’t hurt if Texas brought in a quarterback and a receiver or two in order to help bolster this offense. Outside of Xavier Worthy, there is no receiver spot locked down due to availability issues and drops. The quarterback class in the portal has the chance to be elite, and the quarterback of the future is not currently on the roster. Hudson Card had his first good game since Week 1, and whether Casey Thompson is hurt or not, his decision making is dreadful. Texas has Maalik Murphy coming in as well, but if they want someone with college experience the portal may be calling.

Where Sarkisian goes on defense is a huge mystery

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Texas has found themselves in quite the conundrum on defense, as it seems the defensive unit has gotten worse as the weeks go on. Now granted this is the third defensive coordinator and new scheme in three years, but the players showed little to no comprehension or improvements. The defensive line was unable to generate consistent pass rushes, and were pushed off the line on run plays way too often. The defensive backs didn’t seem to understand their assignments at times, and offenses certainly took advantage. Texas is also horrible on third down, and seems to tire very easily which may be more of a strength and conditioning issue.

Sarkisian has three options for the defense. One, he can fire Pete Kwiatkowski and hire someone else while making these players attempt to learn another defensive scheme. The only issue with this is, the new coordinator would likely want input on his assistants, which Kwiatkowski for some reason did not get when he took the gig. He could also allow for Kwiatkowski to stay, but make adjustments that he prefers to the defensive staff. The third option is that they keep everyone, and hope that a second year in the system will be beneficial for everyone and lead to improvements.

Quarterback of the future is not in Austin

AP Photo/Kathleen Batten

The Casey Thompson and Hudson Card experience is all too similar to the David Ash and Case McCoy days. Neither one is consistent enough to take ahold of the job, and they just aren’t the right quarterback for the team in general. After giving Card a very short leash at the beginning of the season, rightfully so after that Arkansas performance, Sarkisian went to Thompson who fared well against lower level teams. Thompson played great in some games like part of the Oklahoma game, but then he would have instances like he did against Oklahoma State where he throws a pick-6 or like he did against West Virginia when he threw it right to a defender with a chance to tie.

Card had his best performance against West Virginia, finally hitting on a deep pass, and not looking terrified in the pocket. He went down with an injury that led to the Thompson interception, but overall played well. If I am Sarkisian, I bring in a quarterback transfer if possible, and I really push for Devin Brown to join Murphy in this 2022 class.

This 2022 class will dictate the success and length of Sarkisian era

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

After much talk about the attrition from the 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes that Tom Herman brought in, that has seen an overwhelming amount of players either transfer, leave football, or not contribute, Sarkisian’s first recruiting class will set the standard for how Texas will do in the future.

The 2022 class, which is currently sitting at No. 7 in the nation, needs a majority of the players to contribute immediately. There are seven recruits across the defensive line that Texas hopes will bolster that group. Brenen Thompson, who is the top recruit in the class, is a receiver that needs to come in and have a Worthy like impact. He doesn’t need to shatter records, but if he can come in and be a consistent option for whoever is at quarterback that is a huge success. The class currently only has two offensive linemen. They’re in the mix for others, and badly need to hit on at least two more. Solidifying the line will only help this team and program moving forward.

If Sarkisian is able to get immediate impact players, and also develop young players, it would be huge for the future of the program. If he loses guys to the transfer portal, or their evaluations were off on someone, his time in Austin will be over before we know it.

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