On National Signing Day, Arlington Bowie offensive lineman Devon Campbell became the 32nd member of the 2022 recruiting class for the Texas Longhorns, but with the NCAA transfer portal extending recruiting timelines and current and expected rule changes, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said Wednesday the Longhorns could take a class of 35 or 36 players.
A one-time waiver from the NCAA passed last fall allowed schools to take up to seven players in addition to the 25 initial counters in a class. But the NCAA is also expected to raise that threshold past seven additional players and Sarkisian is clearly operating from that expectation as the program continues winter conditioning.
Over the years, Sarkisian has learned the value of ensuring late additions to recruiting classes are actually strong enough fits they can become contributors.
“I’ve been in this boat before as a head coach, and you’re like, ‘‘Well, I’ve got these extra spots, let’s go sign these kids on Signing Day’ and you end up taking players that maybe you wouldn’t have taken in December,” Sarkisian said. “But now it’s where we’ve got these spots and you fill your roster maybe with players that aren’t up to the caliber, the standard that you’re looking for. So, we’ll be cognizant of that as we go through it.”
As Sarkisian and his staff track the available players in the transfer portal, they’re looking for fits at a handful of positions that don’t currently feature the numbers Sarkisian would prefer.
“Inside linebacker for instance, I would like us to have at least one more body there, just from a sheer number standpoint,” Sarkisian said. “Safety is a potential other number for us there, wide receiver is potentially another number for us there, so there’s spots there that we could fill if the right person presents himself.”
Texas is currently set to head into the 2022 season with seven players at the inside linebacker position and recently pursued Alabama’s Jaylen Moody in the transfer portal before Moody opted to return to Tuscaloosa two weeks ago. Any potential targets at the position may not emerge until following spring practice.
With four players either graduating or entering the transfer portal, the Horns are thin at safety with only six players who are currently slotted for the position. In the transfer portal, Texas pursued Devonni Reed and Latavious Brini, but Reed landed at South Carolina and Brini is heading to Arkansas.
Sarkisian mentioned super senior Anthony Cook as a player in the mix at safety, a position Cook cross-trained at last season while starting at the nickel position, so he’ll help numbers there, but could cause junior Jerrin Thompson to slide to nickel. Like inside linebacker, there aren’t currently any clear targets for the Longhorns at safety.
At wide receiver, Texas added a big-play threat from Wyoming in Isaiah Neyor and also hosted Oklahoma transfer Mario Williams before he committed to USC, where he’ll reunited with quarterback Caleb Williams. Neyor gives the Longhorns 11 players at wide receiver, but redshirt sophomore Troy Omeire and redshirt freshman Jaden Alexis are both limited in winter conditioning following knee surgeries and there is not currently a clear timetable for either to return.
“I’m not just going to take a guy to fill the number,” Sarkisian said. “I want to make sure that player can come in here and potentially have the ability to contribute to the team where we want to go.”
The notable omission by Sarkisian was the edge rusher position, where Texas has extended at least one offer, to Albany transfer Jared Verse before he committed to Florida State. And the reason for that omission is likely because the Longhorns do have enough players at the position numbers-wise, they just don’t have a player who can clearly elevate the pass rush. So the Horns are likely still in pursuit of Horned Frogs transfer edge Ochaun Mathis, even though the position wasn’t specifically mentioned by Sarkisian on Wednesday.
The only other position to watch is offensive line. Signing seven offensive linemen gives the Longhorns 17 scholarship players at the position for the 2022 season, but with two starters lost to graduation and another part-time starter gone in Tope Imade, Texas could choose to pursue an experienced tackle. Unlike the other positions mentioned, there aren’t any indications that offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Kyle Flood has extended a single offer to an offensive lineman in the transfer portal.
Following a disappointing 5-7 season in Sarkisian’s first year on the Forty Acres, the Texas head coach has successfully changed the narrative around his program with a remarkably successful offseason. But it’s also unlikely that he’s finishing making additions to the 2022 roster.