Struggles in a handful of games this season and a lack of development from players like Tyler Johnson has exposed an uncomfortable truth about the Texas Longhorns — the offensive line isn’t close to becoming a dominant unit that can consistently impact the game in positive ways.
In other words, the Longhorns are likely years away from the possibility of fielding a unit even remotely similar to the physical line that helped the Crimson Tide win the national championship under Steve Sarkisian and Kyle Flood a matter of months ago.
So there’s a tremendous amount of pressure for Texas to close out strong with offensive lineman in the 2022 recruiting class after numerous high-profile misses in the last recruiting cycle left Sarkisian and Flood with a smaller margin for error when they arrived on the Forty Acres — Texas only landed two offensive lineman in the 2021 recruiting class, an unusually low number.
“What I do know is, just from a from a depth chart standpoint, we only signed two offensive linemen in last year’s class, which is which is a real rarity in recruiting for various reasons — you have a coaching change, you have things happen when the last staff was here, and who was available, so we only ended up signing two guys,” Sarkisian said.
With only two offensive line commits in the class and the early signing period rapidly approaching with the Horns at 4-4 overall and 2-3 in Big 12 play, the pressure is increasing as the on-field results demonstrate the need to sign blue-chip linemen, but haven’t provided the wins that recruits have demanded of the program.
Sarkisian understands the need to land quality recruits instead of settling for less-talented players who are willing to commit quickly.
“I think there’s a fine line and if you want to settle on lineman, we could probably get five linemen tonight by tonight,” Sarkisian said. “But if you want to recruit the best players and you want to ultimately put together a line for your future that is upper echelon, upper tier in the country, you’ve got to recruit the best players and you know, a lot of the best players haven’t decided where they’re going to school yet.”
Indeed, a handful of top targets remain uncommitted, including Arlington Bowie offensive guard Devon Campbell, Humble Atascosita offensive guard Kam Dewberry, Federal Way (Wash.) Todd Beamer offensive tackle Malik Agbo, and Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco offensive guard Earnest Greene.
Texas is still working to get Campbell on campus for an official visit, but the other four players have recently seen the program first hand and remain viable options for the Longhorns. Campbell is the must-have prospect of the group given his lofty ranking as the No. 12 player nationally and the longstanding strong position for Texas as the perceived leader in his recruitment.
But finding tackle bodies is just as important — both commits, Austin Westlake’s Connor Robertson and Frisco’s Cole Hutson, are considered interior prospects, though both have the height to play tackle if they can hold up in pass protection. There are some concerns about Agbo remaining outside at 320 pounds, too.
Publicly, Sarkisian remained confident on Monday when asked about recruiting at the position.
“So we feel great about where we’re at. I feel great about the recruiting class in general,” Sarkisian said.
The staff can’t sell results yet, but with Derek Kerstetter, Denzel Okafor, and Tope Imade all exhausting their eligibility following this season and the small 2021 offensive line class, Sarkisian and Flood can sell the potential for early playing time.
“There’s great opportunity moving forward for a kid coming in as a freshman because of the lack of depth there that was in last year’s recruiting class,” Sarkisian said. “So there’s no doubt you know, we need to sign a minimum of five guys in this class, but we want to make sure we’re signing quality players. We’re not just filling a roster spot.”