As a burgeoning team leader, Texas Longhorns junior running back Bijan Robinson was just trying to build some rapport with freshman offensive tackle Kelvin Banks Jr. by cracking a joke during a summer weight-lifting session.
Banks wasn’t having it, intent instead on simply putting in work.
“He just looked at me like, ‘What are you doing? Leave me alone,’” Robinson recounted on Thursday at Big 12 Media Days in Arlington.
A consensus five-star prospect ranked as the No. 33 player nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Banks flipped from Oregon to Texas late in the 2022 recruiting cycle after Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal departed for Coral Gables. Listed at 6’5, 318 pounds, Banks is one of the seven big humans landed by head coach Steve Sarkisian and offensive line coach Kyle Flood to rebuild an offensive line that has largely struggled during the decade-plus the Longhorns have spent in the college football wilderness.
Paid off by a patient approach from Sarkisian and Flood, the offensive line class came together late, with four of the seven signees pledging just before the early signing period in December and consensus five-star prospect DJ Campbell becoming the final addition on National Signing Day.
In total, the group represents 2,265 pounds in the trenches, a full 1.13 tons, averaging 6’5 and 324 pounds with Duncanville product Cam Williams looming as the biggest human of them all at 6’7, 374 pounds.
“I saw Cam Williams the first day he came and I just looked up. You ain’t going to see too many people like this in Arp, Texas, I can tell you that,” super senior linebacker DeMarvion Overshown said.
With a population of 1,400 out in the Piney Woods of East Texas, that’s not saying much when it comes to Overshown’s country hometown outside of Tyler, but there’s no question that Williams is also one of the largest players in all of college football, and possessed with remarkable athleticism for his size.
So as the raw numbers indicate, it’s an extremely large group, in numbers and in mass.
“Some of those dudes came in, and I was like, first of all, y’all are very big. Very big dudes,” Robinson said.
Arguably the best offensive line class in Texas football history, the group not only represents the future of the Longhorns, it also represents the culmination of a goal Sarkisian recognized as early as his interview with athletics director Chris Del Conte prior to taking the Texas job.
“That was one of the things I said — we need bigger humans in our program. The numbers just weren’t the way I would have liked it, the body structure, there’s just a lot to it,” Sarkisian said. “I just value up-front play. So much of your team and your program and the identity of that comes through the big people up front.”
Early on, they’ve already made an impression on their older teammates, and for more than just their collective stature.
“They come in and they work,” senior edge Ovie Oghoufo said. “These freshmen come in and work. I’m excited for the season. I’m excited for them. I’m excited for their career. They just come in and work. They come in with size, too. I love it.”
A candid look at the summer top speed board for the Texas offensive line provided a glimpse into how much athleticism this group possesses — Campbell and Banks are already the two fastest offensive linemen in the program, the freshmen make up four of the top five, and even Williams, at 374 pounds, is faster than three starters.
Of course, pure speed is hardly the best way to measure an offensive lineman’s ability, but athleticism combined with highly-regarded potential combined with work ethic combined with the coaching of Flood should produce some high-level contributors from this class.
To put it more bluntly, Sarkisian and Flood desperately need this class to produce high-level contributors to allow the talented quarterbacks and speedy skill position players to thrive in Sarkisian’s offense.
Oghoufo pointed to Banks, Campbell, and Williams as the three who have stood out the most so far. Indeed, those are the three most likely to contribute early in their careers, with Campbell a possibility to earn a starting spot at guard at some point during the season — fellow freshman Cole Hutson, the lone early enrollee in the group, started with the first team during the Orange-White game — and Banks set to compete with sophomore Hayden Conner and redshirt sophomore Andrej Karic at the left tackle spot. Conner could also slide back inside to guard, where he started the spring before Karic suffered an injury, but if Conner continues to play as well as he did in the Orange-White game, he could lock down the left tackle job, affording Campbell the easier transition to playing inside next to veteran center Jake Majors.
But since Hutson is the only freshman to put on pads and participate in an actual practice for the Longhorns, Sarkisian still doesn’t know exactly where the group is on their collective development curve and whether any are capable of contributing early.
“Not yet,” Sarkisian said. “I have indicators that things are adding up. You see the physical makeup. I can see them in their conditioning and in their lifting and what those numbers look like. I can see some of the retention of the scheme, or the fundamentals and the techniques because we can be on the field now working on those things, but, and I jokingly say this, we’re still in underwear. We haven’t put on the pads. It hasn’t gotten difficult and hard.”
Regardless of when the massive linemen are capable of contributing, they have Robinson happy about the future.
“Now that I see these kind of guys that are going to potentially be playing in front of me, it makes me smile every day.”