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Bohls: Sarkisian likes receivers, but linebacker, cornerback depth is thin

Steve Sarkisian, who was introduced as the new Texas coach in January, sized up his football roster on national signing day. Texas returns every starter except quarterback Sam Ehlinger from December's Alamo Bowl win.

Steve Sarkisian likes his Texas football team. He said as much Wednesday.

That may not count as breaking news. 

He’d better. It’s the only one he has.

But the new Longhorns coach wasn’t evasive about addressing the strengths and weaknesses of the roster he’s inherited, including the bulk of a 15th-ranked signing class that committed to his predecessor Tom Herman.

The remnants of his 7-3 Alamo Bowl championship team that was an eye blink away — to use Sarkisian’s own words — from a 10-0 season are substantial enough to give the new boss hope he can contend with the Oklahomas and Iowa States right out of the gate.

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Of course, Texas contended with them last season before falling in four overtimes to the Sooners and by a field goal to the Cyclones. He’ll be chasing those two again in 2021.

“The reality of it is we need to continue to build our roster kind of simultaneously,” Sarkisian said. “To keep developing not just depth but the quality of players needed to be a team that we all want to be for the next one, seven, 10 years, and that takes time and consistency.”

Translation: Texas ain’t Alabama. And it ain’t gonna be in 2021 or any time soon. Maybe someday.

That said, he likes his wide receivers and tight ends. He should.

He worries about his inside linebackers and cornerbacks and offensive line. He definitely should.

He thinks his two quarterbacks have skills, but hasn’t seen either throw a spiral yet. Casey Thompson and Hudson Card both are good, raw players.

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Spring ball doesn’t start until March 23, all the better to put on some muscle, get on a first-name basis with the players and allow a virus to subside.

Texas returns every single Alamo Bowl starter but Sam Ehlinger, but that doesn’t account for 10 starters/regulars who either opted out before the bowl game, were injured or transferred to other schools. That number includes three offensive linemen, a four-year starter at quarterback, a running back, two defensive linemen, two safeties and a wideout.

Throw that into the mix, and Texas has a solid but not sensational nucleus back in 2020, boosted by transfers like linebacker Ray Thornton, defensive lineman Ovie Oghoufo and cornerback Darion Dunn.

Specifically, Sarkisian said he likes the depth the Longhorns have at wide receiver and tight end. He should. Texas had almost two dozen players at those two positions, which was a huge oversight by Herman since you won’t find any Power Five teams starting up to 11 wide receivers and tight ends on the field at the same time. 

Kind of helps to have a quarterback, running back and some offensive linemen out there, too. Especially up front because two offensive line starters have moved on and were replaced by freshmen in the bowl win over Colorado. Derek Kerstetter is rehabbing an injury and hopes to play again at Texas. Offensive line is the position that also takes the longest to develop in terms of body size and maturity, and quite frankly Oklahoma and Texas A&M have been whipping Texas’ butt in that area of recruiting.

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“I think recruiting offensive linemen is really delicate,” Sarkisian said, “because when you miss, it’s hard. And if you miss a few different times, all of a sudden that room isn’t looking like the way you want it to look.”

Like recent transfers Reese Moore and Willie Tyler, who have moved on with little impact.

For receivers, Texas is well-stocked and likely to get better because Denton Ryan’s Ja’Tavion Sanders is the prize of the class and could be a two-way contributor on offense and defense.

“That side of it on offense I think is a very deep position,” Sarkisian said of the pass-catchers. “On the offensive line, we really only signed two kids in this class. We've had a little bit of attrition in the portal. So I do think moving forward, that is going to be a position that we're really gonna have to focus on in the 2022 class so, which we're comfortable doing.”

Defensively, Sarkisian raised his eyebrows when discussing inside linebackers and cornerbacks and frets that Texas may be lacking in numbers.

“When you look at the defensive side of the ball, you know I'm not as comfortable with the depth right now with the inside linebacker position,” he said. “I do think there's quality players. I’m talking more just sheer depth. You can never have enough guys that can run and cover in the back end.”

September will come soon.