Bohls: Steve Sarkisian is looking to make over a disappointing Texas football roster
- Steve Sarkisian is looking to completely revamp his roster for next season.
- Teams are allowed up to seven replacement scholarships to take the place of portal defections.
- "The results of the season tell you everybody obviously is not buying in," Keondre Coburn said.
The miscues were there for all to see.
Both Texas quarterbacks lost fumbles when they got sacked Saturday. Hudson Card threw a pick-six, which is not to be confused with a touchdown six. Casey Thompson was intercepted in the end zone on the next-to-last series in regulation.
And you thought Texas had a lot of turnover against Kansas.
Just wait till you see next season’s roster.
Austin should be Makeover Central, a hub for anyone who wants to come and play right away, be it an infusion of talent from the high school ranks or the transfer portal.
Even Steve Sarkisian said in no uncertain terms at Monday’s press conference that the makeup of the 2022 Longhorns may look very different from this 4-6 team that's mired in a five-game losing streak after a stunning, 57-56 overtime defeat by the visiting Jayhawks.
“Looking at the way things are shaping up, I could see us with 33 new players on the team by next fall,” Sarkisian said. “So more than a third of the roster will be new. That’s the nature of the business we’re in now.”
That includes signing a full recruiting class and the NCAA's one-year waiver permitting up to seven more grants to replace players who depart through the portal. So Texas will have very much a new look next September.
And that’s a good thing because two high-profile starters said on Monday that this team doesn’t have wholesale buy-ins. Not everyone is buying what Sark and Co. are selling.
“I can’t give you a number,” junior nose tackle Keondre Coburn said when asked if all have bought in to the new culture. “Obviously, with the performance, our record, and how the season is going, I don't think so. This is the year you get that out, and other people get to fall into the footsteps of what the coaches want. The results of the season tell you everybody obviously is not buying in.”
Sarkisian will have to make hay to find replacements for the 12 players on last year’s roster who left for greener pastures, three of them to USC. He and his staff are off to a good start with a class of 22 pledges who are collectively ranked No. 7 in the nation, according to 247Sports' composite ratings.
But remember, Tom Herman had three top-10 classes — two of them top three in the nation — in his four years. His first class was No. 25.
Preferably, many of those incoming transfers and high school players will play in the trenches. You know, where the games are actually won and lost.
“At the end of the day, football is won up front,” Sarkisian said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s Little League, high school football, college or the NFL, the teams that are there at the end are really good up front, and this year is no different. That has been a point of emphasis for us. Now you’ve got to have playmakers and people who can cover routes, but this is still an in-the-trenches game, and I think we’re doing a terrific job recruiting that.”
Now no one should expect many of those 33 to come in and make immediate impacts, but in this case, if four-star defensive linemen like Jaray Bledsoe, Justice Finkley and J’mond Tapp aren’t productive in 2022, line coach Bo Davis might be irked enough to turn out another video.
That said, this team has gotten wildly successful numbers out of freshman Xavier Worthy, whose 11 touchdown receptions are two shy of Jordan Shipley’s school-record 13. Otherwise, results have been marginal, outside some big potential from nose tackle Byron Murphy II and end Barryn Sorrell.
Beyond those three, six others are listed as third-teamers on the depth chart but highly-regarded like injured running Jonathan Brooks, tight end Gunnar Helm and guard Hayden Conner.
Bijan Robinson, as talented as he is, was underused by Herman in his rookie season. True freshman Ja’Tavion Sanders, the face of Texas' 2021 recruiting class, has barely gotten onto the field as a fourth-string tight end and special-teams contributor.
Two starters even suggested that there are disgruntled or defiant players in the locker room who haven’t bought in to Sarkisian’s system and may be leaving after a season that couldn’t end too soon. Thompson said he’s seen the same energy from the team on game day or in the locker room during the team’s 4-1 start as he has in the 0-5 skid that has derailed the season. Texas may miss a bowl game for the first time since 2016.
“It is the same for the most part,” said the junior quarterback, who's coming off a performance with a school record-tying six touchdown passes. “You’ve got 10% elite players, 80% in the middle group who have bought in and are competing and probably 10% who don’t care and don’t want to be in the program.”
When asked if it was the job of the coaches and top players to weed out the 10% of the roster who are problems, the ever-diplomatic Thompson said, “The first thing we need to do is bring them up. Now if they don’t want to work hard and be accountable, then we have to have some talks with them about getting out.”
Truthfully, it may be difficult at times to identify that bottom tenth of the roster because very few of them have played at a winning level.
Other than starters like Thompson, Worthy, Robinson (who's now out for the season with a dislocated elbow) and Roschon Johnson, which other of their teammates can be considered elite college players?
None probably, and that’s a huge concern and the major reason the team is 4-6.
Given the lofty ranking of Sarkisian’s recruiting class, help is on the way. But it seems like help has always been on the way.