The Dotted Line: Grading Texas' 2021 offensive haul
Texas' disappointing 2020 season ultimately led to the termination of head coach Tom Herman, who was replaced by Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Herman was hired before the 2017 season as an offensive guru with limited head coaching experience.
Herman was tasked with fixing the program, but he failed. And that failure was felt on the recruiting trail in the 2021 cycle way before athletic director Chris Del Conte terminated his contract.
Texas' 2021 class ranked 17th in the country and second in the Big 12. The offensive group consisted of one four-star prospect — an out-of-state receiver. Failing to sign a single four-star Texan on the head coach's side of the ball was a loud condemnation of the on-field product.
Grading Texas' offensive class:
Signed (1): Charles Wright
Wright threw for more than 8,000 yards and accounted for more than 100 touchdowns in an Austin High career that spanned parts of four seasons. He took over full-time as a sophomore, passing for 2,510 yards and 27 touchdowns. He upped that production to 2,862 yards as a junior.
He wasn’t Texas’ first commitment at quarterback. He received an offer after Katy Tompkins standout Jalen Milroe flipped to Alabama. Wright grew up a Longhorns fan. His high school is within walking distance of the UT campus. Many are writing him off as a career backup, but many of those same people also once wrote off Tuscola Jim Ned's Colt McCoy.
Texas also added three-star walk-on Cole Lourd. The Longhorns return Casey Thompson and Hudson Card to compete for the vacant starting quarterback position following the departure of Sam Ehlinger. Wright and Lourd will be tasked with developing behind the scenes and providing snaps on the scout team.
Running backs: B-
Signed (1): Jonathon Brooks
In five playoff games, Brooks amassed 1,399 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. He surpassed 3,000 yards and 60 touchdowns for the season. The three-star running back led Hallettsville to the Class 3A Division I state championship game.
Brooks possesses every skill required to be an elite running back at the college level except for top-end speed. He earned a fourth star before national signing day. He joins a running backs room led by Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson. Four-star Jaydon Blue, the state’s top running back in the 2022 cycle, is already committed to Texas.
Wide receivers: B-
Signed (3): Jaden Alexis, Casey Cain, Keithron Lee
Texas was forced to go out of state to find a pair of receivers during the early period.
Alexis is a 5-11 slot receiver with legit track speed. He’s the only consensus four-star in the offensive class. He's a Florida native who held 36 offers; he was the 56th-ranked wide receiver in the country. Cain is from New Orleans. The 6-2, 175-pounder was the 31st-ranked prospect in Louisiana.
The Longhorns added Lee, a three-star from Bryan Rudder, on Christmas. He remained committed despite the coaching change, signing with the Longhorns on national signing day. The 5-10 Lee caught 65 passes for 1,139 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. He was named first-team all-district for the second time in his three year varsity career.
Tight ends: B+
Signed (3): Ja’Tavion Sanders, Gunnar Helm, Juan Davis
Tight end was the highlight of Texas’ offensive class. The three-headed monster of a tight end class is headlined by Sanders, the only five star to pick the Longhorns in the 2021 recruiting cycle. Sanders is an athlete who started at wide receiver and defensive end during his illustrious prep career at Denton Ryan. It’s looking more likely that he starts his career at tight end since he prefers offense.
Helm is a three-star from Utah with a tremendous understanding of how to run routes. He gets open with ease, using his size to box-out smaller defenders. He helped his Englewood Cherry Creek team win a state title. Davis is an athlete from Everman who spent time playing receiver and quarterback. He’s a high-upside prospect who needs a season or two to learn the position.
Offensive linemen: C-
Signed (2): Hayden Conner, Max Merril
No position disappointed more on Texas' recruiting results than the offensive line. The state was loaded with offensive line prospects, including Longhorns legacies Tommy and James Brockermeyer, who ended up at Alabama. Even with more than a dozen four-star linemen prospects in the state, Texas didn’t sign a single one. Instead, the Longhorns settled on Conner and Merril. Both played tackle in high school.
The top priority for Sarkisian is for he and offensive line coach Kyle Flood to improve the depth and overall talent of line. The 2021 cycle was a missed opportunity for the Texas program because of the absurd level of talent within the state.