Burnt Orange Nation’s weekly roundtable is back just as Texas gears up for spring football and conference play in Men’s and Women’s basketball.
This week we touch on the transfer portal moves that Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns have made plus, whatever is happening on the court under Chris Beard, and baseball? Yes, baseball.
Feel free to weigh in with your responses in the comment section below.
Steve Sarkisian and the coaching staff have been busy adding players from the portal including Quinn Ewers but also Ohio State DB Ryan Watts and Alabama TE Jahmal Billinsgley - between Watts and Billingsley, who are you most excited for?
Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - Billingsley. All three will likely be starting come next fall but when’s the last time Texas has a truly dynamic tight end? We’ve had a few great blocking tight ends but no one lethal in the passing game since…Jermichael Finley. If he can replicate his production in 2020 when he was under Sarkikian, look out.
Curry Shoff (@willcurrys) - It has to be Ewers. With an improved OL under Flood and a couple of receiving threats (more to come, hopefully) paired with Bijan, we are going to learn pretty quickly just how legit our new QB is going to be. I have high hopes.
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - If I have to pick between Watts and Billingsley, I think sheer pragmatism makes me pick Watts. In 2021, the tight ends were at worst a non-factor for Texas, while a lack of depth and talent in the secondary cost Texas on far too many occasions. Watts brings some positional versatility, which gives the coaching staff the option to move players around and hopefully find the right alchemy to fix what plagued the back end of the defense. His TWO interceptions last year would have tied him for second on the team and made him one of just three players with multiple interceptions – safety BJ Foster had three and linebacker Luke Brockermeyer had two.
Evan Kirschner (@EvanKirschner) - Honestly how can it not be Ewers? Given the departure of Casey Thompson and Hudson Card’s underwhelming play in spots last year, all systems are go for the prodigal son to take the reigns next season at the helm of the offense.
Texas added another key piece from the transfer portal in Wyoming wideout Isaiah Neyor. Originally committed to Tennessee before flipping to Texas, does Neyor bring enough depth to the WR position, and is this further proof Texas is the real UT?
Cameron - If everyone is healthy, and that’s a big if, I think Neyor will be an excellent addition and his nose for the endzone (12 touchdowns at Wyoming) will be helpful. But do we have any proof that everyone will stay healthy? No. Sark and new WR coach Brennan Marion are hoping that a few freshman can step up. As for the real UT, whoever wins 10 games first can reclaim the throne.
Curry - Neyor is a 1,000 yard player that will immediately impact this offense. Hopefully he’s able to handle the shift to P5 football – but all indications are that he and Billingsley will be two added targets that didn’t exist for the 2021 team – which should relieve the bulk of the work for Worthy and alleviate the pressure on Whittington. However, pertaining to the real UT, I believe that still is and will always be Toledo. Now I want to see what Texas is able to do with OL and safety.
Gerald - It is pretty clear Texas was very selective with their portal offers at WR, so it seems at least that the coaching staff felt they had the pieces in-place outside of one more top-end guy. It seems odd to me because there are a lot of guys in that room who have a ton of potential but have either not shown it yet or not proven themselves dependable. Troy Omiere hasn’t played a down in two seasons, Jordan Whittington has missed nine games in two years, and the rest of that room has four career touchdowns. That being said, Neyor is a guy who likely hasn’t gotten to the top of his talent, having really only played high-level football for three years. With the tutelage of Brennan Marion, he may become an even more dynamic playmaker than we’ve already seen. And Texas has always been the real UT, but they quieted down with that chatter after going 0-fer in Omaha and getting doubled up in an elimination game by David Pierce’s bunch.
Evan - I’m a little surprised, though it’s probably not too hard to imagine that transfers at these positions weren’t exactly beating UT’s door down given how tumultuous the last two years have been. I’m more concerned with the OL - I think it was glaringly obvious how poorly this unit was last year and how shallow it was. You can say the same as the WR group outside of Worthy, but a good OL would pave the way for Bijan and give Ewers time to read a defense - two things this team sorely lacked the ability to do late last year.
Switching gears to basketball - the Longhorns lost to Kansas State on Tuesday, who entered with a 1-4 record in conference play, and now have dropped back-to-back games. What is going on with Chris Beard’s team and where do the Horns go from here?
Cameron - Did Curry really say Toledo? Anyways, I think part of the struggle this season is Chris Beard has a roster full of good players, but not great ones. Marcus Carr had his best game of the season on Tuesday but the rest of the team did not show up. It feels like every night one or two guys play good but the rest of the team is meh. It’s still early but Texas has a BRUTAL February coming up. Maybe Beard and Co. will turn some heads next month but this team needs to wake up…fast.
Curry - Man...this team is not fun to watch at all. Sorry. It doesn’t seem like this team flows together very well and isn’t very athletic. I heard from a Texas Luthern player (from the Week 0 scrimmage) that he felt Texas was less athletic than Texas A&M Corpus Christi – which was about as damning as it gets. It wasn’t a malicious comment, either. Just an honest one. Beard put together a putrid non-conference schedule to give these guys time to acclimate and I’m not sure it worked. It actually backfired – because Texas can’t afford a bad conference record and I am having trouble finding nine wins. If Texas loses to TCU and Oklahoma State again – stick a fork in them.
Gerald - I wish I knew what to tell you. It seems like building nearly the entire roster out of the transfer portal may not have been a winning strategy for Texas. Honestly for my money, the big issue is the lack of offensive efficiency from the team. When you play a style of basketball that focuses on limiting the number of possessions and shortening games, you can’t really afford to shoot 42 percent from the floor and miss 13 three-pointers. The math just doesn’t really work.
Evan - This was a team that was cobbled together in the summer, with a new coach, in a conference that may very well be a basketball conference. Beard’s team is hard to watch when they’re losing (which, anyone who watched Texas Tech the last few years should’ve expected) but you have to believe in the man that better results will come in time given his track record.
Marcus Carr played perhaps his best game of the season against Kansas State on Tuesday night. Are these the types of performance Carr has to have every night to keep Texas afloat in Big 12 play?
Cameron - Texas needs a reliable scorer every night and Carr might have to do that but he also needs help from his teammates. Outside of Timmy Allen, no one else scored more than 9 points on Tuesday against KSU. That’s surprising considering the Horns brought back Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones. More consistent play out of Carr would be helpful but Chris Beard needs more production from Ramey and AJ1 to knock off any good teams this season.
Curry - It seems like someone has to go off every single game for Texas to contend. That isn’t a recipe for success. Texas doesn’t have a reliable big-time scorer game in and game out. Would like to see more from the bigs, but it’s just not clicking. I am terrified to see what the big dogs in the conference do to this team.
Gerald - Well it certainly didn’t work against Kansas State. The problem for Texas is that they can’t seem to find “one more” guy offensively. Against Kansas State, Carr and Timmy Allen had great nights – the rest of the starters were 6-18. Especially in a basketball conference like the Big 12, that just won’t cut it.
Evan - Someone has to step up each night, that’s been the recipe for success in their more impressive wins. If this team wants to make it far into the tournament, they can’t just be a well-rounded team full of 6-10 ppg scorers. It’s imperative they figure out who to run the offense through in order to generate more scoring.
Let’s end with baseball - Texas was recently ranked No. 1 in the D1Baseball pre-season poll. Is this David Pierce’s most complete team yet?
Cameron - I’ll wait until baseball season starts to make any proclamtions but on paper this team has a very large ceiling. With Pete Hansen back along with Tanner Whitt, Tristan Stevens, and Aaron Nixon, this pitching staff will be dirty. I think the question in college baseball is always about hitting and if you have enough of it? Ivan Melendez will help with that but it’s probably a College World Series or bust type of season.
Curry - I’ll defer to everyone else on this. It’s a little early to start putting my eggs in the baseball basket. That’s typically a garnish for me.
Gerald - I think we need to see the on-field product before we can make that type of proclamation, but on paper they seem to have everything in the right spots. Texas has four All-American pitchers, in addition to a starting lineup that returns Melendez, Trey Faltine, and Mitchell Daily. They likely won’t need to provide a ton of run support for that pitching staff, but have the ability to when needed.
Evan - Absolutely. Compare this team to his other two College World Series teams: in 2018, Texas was a terrible hitting team that was dragged to the CWS behind a god-tier second-half run from Kody Clemens and a starting pitching rotation littered with MLB draft picks. Last year’s team exceeded expectations by essentially finishing 3rd. That team was seen as being a year or two away from seriously competing before the season, but the young Longhorns ended the regular season as B12 Champs, 2nd overall seed in the postseason and were awfully close to winning the whole thing. Most of that team returns this year, losing only a few key pieces while a majority of the team gains another year of experience. UT Baseball fans should be very excited about this season - for the first time in a long time, it’s Champions or Bust in Austin.