It appears Sark has put the finishing touches on his coaching staff heading into the 2023 season, hiring Chris Jackson as the new Wide Receivers coach and Jahmal Fenner as the new Director of High School relations. What do you make of the hires?
Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - Solid hires on both fronts in my opinion. The wide receiver room in Jacksonville took a nice step forward this year production-wise under Jackson and he brings NFL coaching experience to the table. Fenner is a well-respected name among the Texas high school football coaching community, so getting him to replace Chris Gilbert is another step in the right direction for Sarkisian.
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - I think when you have a loaded receiver room like Texas has, bringing in a known developer like Jackson feels like the right move, especially when the rest of the coaching staff can pitch in on the pivotal recruiting battles. I think, like many, I was hoping for someone with a Dallas lean for the Director of High School Relations, but after Chris Gilbert got the doors re-opened for Texas in DFW, bringing in someone connected and respected in the coaching ranks is great no matter where they’re from in the state.
Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - Jackson turned the Jaguars WR room into one of the best in the league after the media hammered their decisions to sign Zay Jones and Christian Kirk. Sark clearly wanted to find a coach who could develop over recruit. On the Fenner hire, I was able to work alongside him and his staff during my time as the LBJ broadcaster and what stood out to me was 1) his relationships with his players and 2) the way he set up his schedule as a 4A team. Fenner always tried to schedule 5A and 6A schools from Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio in non-district play and I think that was possible because of the relationships he built with coaches across the state.
Nik Patel (@NumberswithNik) - I remember Jacksonville’s receiving corps being ranked in the bottom five at the beginning of the season. Being able to turn names like Kirk, Jones, and Engram into great partners for Trevor Lawrence shows what Chris Jackson can do. Ideally, he showcases that same talent with an improved Longhorn receiver room next year along with whoever will be QB1. Fenner has a solid resume and network, so I can imagine that will help keep Texas afloat in recruiting as it enters the SEC later on.
Speaking of finishing touches, the Horns added former Georgia wideout AD Mitchell via the transfer portal. Are you feeling good about where the WR room stands heading into spring ball?
Daniel - Feeling much better than I did about a month ago. You are getting an additional year out of Jordan Whittington, Xavier Worthy seems content to stay after the transfer rumors, and on top of that you are adding a talented option in Mitchell. I still think they should try to add one more body from the portal if the right guy is available, but they are in a good spot heading into the spring. I will be very intrigued if we see signs of Isaiah Neyor looking healthy, as he is a guy who could change the overall ceiling for this position group.
Gerald - I’ve always said that when you go to the portal you’re looking for a guy to shore up the floor or raise the ceiling, but I think Mitchell does both for Texas. A lot of the go routes that Ewers and Worthy missed were as much of a result as that not being Worthy’s ideal use in the offense. So adding a guy like Mitchell, on top of having Neyor presumably coming back from injury, shores up one of the biggest flaws in the offense while also adding a guy who can be a game-breaker at the position.
Cameron - I feel good about the depth of the position, but I’m still weary because no one seemed to step up at the position last year. I’m hopefully that Isaiah Neyor and AD Mitchell will free up the offense a bit more and help out Worthy, but I need to see it first.
Nik - It seems like Worthy has plans on returning next year after his reaction to the Jackson hire. Combined with Mitchell, Neyor, and Whittington, I have a better feeling about the receiving room next year. Casey Cain showed a glimpse of what he could do throughout the season as well. We just have to pray for no injuries before the season even kicks off.
Switching over to the hardware, #10 Texas and Rodney Terry begin a brutal four-game stretch on Saturday that starts at #4 Tennessee. We’ve seen Texas knock off #2 Gonzaga but that was with Chris Beard. Does Terry need to win on Saturday to prove he’s the right coach?
Daniel - I think need is a strong word. I think what happens in March will ultimately dictate what Texas does as far as hiring its head coach. If Texas makes a deep run then I think things get interesting there and there will certainly be some support internally.
Gerald - I don’t think the need is the right word, but it would be a solid data point in his corner. With the core of the decision to move on from Shaka Smart being the inability to make a run in the NCAA tournament, March will likely be the deciding factor.
Cameron - No because Terry’s future will be decided based on how the team plays in March. Rick Barnes moved on because although he knew how to win in December and January, he couldn’t get it done in March. Same thing for Shaka Smart. CDC and Texas fans aren’t interested in the empty calorie wins.
Nik - I think Terry deserves a lot of credit already. Coming out of a mess, Texas has only lost to other ranked Big 12 teams (in a stacked conference this year I might add). Given Texas’ tendency to play up against big opponents, Terry will prove the Longhorns are still a contender as long as they keep it close against Tennesee. I think it’s more important that Texas can show they can grab at least one win on the road during this four-game stretch and set their floor for 2-2.
Marcus Carr has been nothing short of incredible over the last few games, with a pair of 20-point performances against Texas Tech and West Virginia that included big time buckets. Has he taken his game to another level?
Daniel - He certainly seems like he has evolved into the guy that Texas was hoping they would get when they plucked him from the portal. If he can sustain this kind of performance level and Tyrese Hunter can regain his early season form then I really like Texas’ chances come tournament time.
Gerald - Getting him out of the point guard role has allowed him to play more like the guy fans expected him to be last year. When he’s able to play off-ball and make plays without having to facilitate the offense, he’s at his best.
Cameron - I don’t know if he’s playing the best basketball of his career, but he’s definietly playing the most consisent and effecient of his career. He’s shooting a career best in FG% and 3P% while averaging the most points per game since his last season at Minnesota. This current version of Carr is what Texas and Rodney Terry needs to make a deep run in March.
Nik - He has definitely shown that he can be that guy. He has gotten the line more frequently, improved his shooting percentage, and been a great pickpocketer. The only thing that still worries me is his assist-to-turnover ratio
Just like the Men’s team, Vic Schaefer and the Lady Longhorns are tied for 1st in the Big 12 and have won three straight games against ranked conference opponents. Yet, how are the Horns unranked?
Daniel - At this point in the year I wouldn’t even get too caught up in the rankings. They had a bit of a rough start to the year, but seem to be coming together when they need to be and that
Gerald - The rough non-con run without Rori Harmon put a national brand on them that they’ll struggle to escape unless they cut the nets down in Municipal Auditorium. I think if there’s a team that won’t really care about the number besides their name is a Vic Schaefer team, so I am sure they’re not worried about it.
Cameron - There aren’t 25 teams in the country better than Schaefer’s squad right now. Texas is still paying the price for their slow start to the year when Rori Harmon was dealing with her ankle issues but based off the last month or so, I’d feel confident about this teams trajectory heading into March. My only worry is if the rankings will hurt the Horns bid for landing a regional site but if they take care of business and win the Big 12, I don’t see it being an issue.
Nik - The early losses against now unranked teams like Louisville, Marquette, and Oklahoma State hold the Lady Longhorns back. If they continue to beat ranked opponents, they will surely make the top 25 before the tournament, but they cannot afford to lose smaller matchups. Oklahoma and Baylor are the only other Big 12 teams ranked at the moment. Considering Texas only has Big 12 games left in the regular season, they have to show pure domination over the next month.