Of the 25 signees in the No. 3-ranked 2023 Texas Longhorns recruiting class, 14 enrolled early on the Forty Acres in January and are going through spring practice. During a media availability, head coach Steve Sarkisian singled out eight of those players were praise when asked about their development while offering compliments to the group overall.
“I think they’ve all done well,” Sarkisian said. “I think this group came in as a whole with a really competitive mindset. Like I said, I think whether it’s intentional or not, a lot of them are winners — they expect to win, they want to compete, they want to do it at a high level and all of them to some degree have flashed right in some way shape or form.”
Talent is telling early — the players mentioned specifically by Sarkisian included the six highest-ranked early enrollees.
“Obviously some guys in my opinion have been a little bit more consistent and I think (running back) Cedric Baxter has been very good, I think (linebacker) Anthony Hill’s been very good, I think (wide receiver) DeAndre Moore has been very good, (wide receiver) Johntay Cook done some really nice things, (cornerback) Malik Muhammad has done some nice things, (linebacker) Liona Lefua’s done some nice things, (defensive tackle) Sydir Mitchell’s figuring it out, but man you feel his presence. He’s such a big guy. Obviously what Arch has done, eight practices and as a quarterback in our system, it’s not easy, we take the training wheels off day one, and you’ve got to learn how to ride this bike,” Sarkisian said.
On offense, Manning took is competing with Maalik Murphy for the backup role and Baxter took third-team reps last week behind Jonathon Brooks and Jaydon Blue, but has already been showing flashes of his natural ability, according to Sarkisian. Moore and Cook both look like rotational players in a wide receiver group with significantly improved depth. On defense, Mitchell is the potential backup to nose tackle T’Vondre Sweat, while Hill is competing to replace DeMarvion Overshown at middle linebacker and Lefau could contribute on special teams. Muhammad could either back up Ryan Watts at boundary corner or slot into the competition at the field position.
For all young players, the challenges come quickly in their first spring practice, from getting through the install portion to adapting to the special situations getting thrown at them now.
“Now they’re trying to tie all that together and still use the right fundamentals and techniques and play with the right effort,” Sarkisian said. “So there’s got to be some growing pains but there’s been some guys that have that have really showed us some things that man, these guys probably going to have to contribute this fall. To what degree we don’t know yet, but they are definitely high-level players who are very competitive, who want to be good, and they’re trying to earn their way on the field.”