Listen to Austin 360 Radio

In recruiting, Texas football coach Steve Sarkisian had one focus for 2022 — ‘big humans’

Texas can feature a Heisman Trophy-caliber running back. The Longhorns have one in Bijan Robinson.

The Horns can start a quarterback once labeled as a five-star, can’t-miss prospect. Maybe that’s Ohio State transfer Quinn Ewers.

Unleash Xavier Worthy out wide. Pair him with Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor and anybody you want in the slot.

None of it matters if Texas can’t block up front.

More:How Texas' Steve Sarkisian held it together after a 5-7 season to craft a top-five class

Coach Steve Sarkisian spent his first full recruiting cycle focusing on offensive linemen. “Got to have big humans,” he said in December.

The Horns already had six new linemen signed for the 2022 recruiting class, which is No. 5 nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. But Texas added another massive body Wednesday when Arlington Bowie guard Devon “DJ” Campbell, a five-star interior line prospect, committed on the traditional signing day.

Campbell and Humble Summer Creek’s Kelvin Banks, who signed in December, give the Horns two five-star bulldozers up front. Campbell is listed at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds; Banks, a tackle, is 6-foot-5, 300. 

“I’ve said all along, big humans, right?” Sarkisian said Wednesday. “We need big humans in our program. We need to get bigger up front, more physical up front.”

Texas offensive linemen Christian Jones, center, and Tope Imade, left, hug running back Bijan Robinson to celebrate a third-quarter touchdown against Oklahoma State last October. The Longhorns signed several highly-rated offensive linemen in this year's recruiting class.

College freshmen typically need time to get into school, get into the weight room and learn the system, especially offensive and defensive linemen. This is time Sarkisian does not have. Not after going 5-7. He needs results now, and every one of UT’s 32 newcomers will get plenty of opportunities this summer and fall.

“It’s not about if you’ve been here for five years or if you’re a true freshman,” Sarkisian said. “The guys that earn it that are the best players, that give us as a team the best chance to succeed will play.

“Naturally, the offensive line position is probably one of the more challenging positions to play early at,” he continued. “Sometimes, wide receiver, running back, defensive back have a little easier time. But this is a very talented group.”

Sarkisian said he doesn’t want to put a ceiling on anyone’s ability. “Whoever it is, and whoever they are, they'll earn it,” he said. “We're going to give these guys every opportunity to compete and compete at a high level.”

Texas recruiting notebook: How Cameron Dicker helped the Longhorns find their next kicker

Guard Junior Angilau should be the Horns’ most experienced lineman returning next season. He’s a versatile three-year starter. Beyond him, Texas has older linemen who have been shaky at times. And there should be a slew of sophomores and redshirt freshmen itching to move up and prove themselves.

Still, the position simply didn’t have enough depth, largely because UT signed only 10 linemen from 2019-21 combined. Think that’s enough? Sarkisian just signed seven in one class. Texas hasn’t signed more than five offensive lineman in a single class since 2016.

“In a perfect world for us, we have about 17 scholarship offensive linemen on our roster on a yearly basis,” Sarkisian said. “We felt the need that we had to sign that many in this year's class because of only signing two the year before.”

Texas offensive line coach Kyle Flood should be all smiles. The Longhorns signed two elite five-star offensive linemen in this year's recruiting class. Arlington Bowie interior lineman Devon Campbell and Humble Summer Creek tackle Kelvin Banks will arrive on campus this summer.

Cole Hutson, a four-star recruit from Frisco, has already enrolled and will go through spring practice. Neto Umeozulu (Allen), Malik Agbo (Federal Way, Wash.), Cameron Williams (Duncanville) and Connor Robertson (Westlake) are scheduled to join this summer.

It’s unfair to pin the 2021 class makeup entirely on Sarkisian. When he arrived just after New Year’s Day, the bulk of the Longhorns' class was already done. Sarkisian was merely trying to fill holes in the one month before February’s signing day.

More: Texas football poised for fourth top-10 class in five years as signing day arrives

That’s why he should be fully graded on this 2022 class. He and his staff had a full year to evaluate the current roster, a full year to gauge high school prospects and a full year to chart a path for Texas’ future.

“I thought we really put a lot of effort into identifying the players in this class on the offensive line, targeting them and then going after them,” Sarkisian said. “And ultimately for me, that was a home run to get those seven guys.”

Aside from Campbell’s commitment, there wasn’t much to get excited about. National signing day used to be full of fireworks. Now, those fireworks happen in mid-December during the early signing period. And explosions are happening darn near every day in the transfer portal, it seems.

“Seems a little odd,” Sarkisian noted. “National signing day and we signed one kid today.”

Texas will have at least 32 new players, assuming that everyone clears academically, and Sarkisian said it could be 35 or 36 before it’s all said and done. 

The quarterback battle will suck up most of the oxygen this spring. And railbirds are eager to see freshman edge rusher Justice Finkley and Ohio State cornerback transfer Ryan Watts on the practice field, too.

Sarkisian has two new assistants and a new “special assistant” helping out. It’s still unclear what role former TCU coach Gary Patterson will have since he technically cannot be an on-field coach.

Sarkisian told ESPN on Tuesday that bringing former head coaches into your program was an idea made popular by Alabama’s Nick Saban. 

“Anytime you can get somebody with a wealth of experience and knowledge, 21 years as a head coach in the Big 12 Conference in the state of Texas, just a valuable asset for us on a lot of fronts,” Sarkisian said. “So we're excited to have him on board as well.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.