We’re about two weeks into preseason camp and three weeks out from the season opener for the Texas Longhorns first game against the Rice Owls. What’s been standing out to you the most from the preseason practices?
Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - You have to take a lot of the practice reports with a grain of salt, because you really won’t know much until pads come on and they are hitting someone in a different color helmet. With that said, the main thing that has stood out to me is that the team’s overall depth seems to be a lot better across the board and we haven’t been able to say that in recent years. There are still some spots I am concerned about (the defensive edge spots particularly), but the overall talent level and depth are in a much better spot heading into the 2023 season.
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - It’s hard to judge most of the reporting because they just put pads on, but I think for me it has been the namedrops of Alfred Collins and Vernon Broughton that seem like big developments. In a year where Texas needs to find additional contributors in the trenches, hearing that two blue-chip guys have seemingly taken the next step to create consistency out of the flashes of brilliance we’ve seen from them in recent years is a big deal. If Collins and Broughton can be consistent contributors, added to what we know about T’Vondre Sweat, Byron Murphy, and Barryn Sorrell, the DL could become a strength for Texas.
Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - The reports regarding the wide receivers have been outstanding - especially around Johntay Cook and Isaiah Neyor. The production from the WR room last year was disappointing — snakebite by lack of depth and injuries. If that room can stay healthy - it sounds like Quinn Ewers will have a lot of targets to choose from this season.
The conference realignment shake-up continues with the Big 12 adding Oregon, Arizona, and Arizona State. Behind the SEC and the Big 100, has Brett Yormark positioned the former home of Texas and OU as the next-best football conference in the country?
Daniel - It certainly feels that way, though we still have to see where things go with the ACC. I don’t think adding Stanford and Cal really makes sense for them since those two schools don’t seem to place a ton of value on their football programs the way the rest of the league does. I have to give Yormark credit though, because the league looked downright pitiful prior to him getting more schools into the boat and now the league at least has a chance at survival moving forward.
Gerald - I still think we need to see how the ACC shakes out before we can make that determination. You’ve got Clemson, who has more championships in the last five years than the entire new Big 12 combined, paired with what appears to be a resurgent Florida State team. If the ACC does break up, then I think the Big 12 steps right into that role. Until then, we have to wait and see.
Cameron - The future of the ACC seems uncertain but if they add Stanford, Cal, and possibly Notre Dame - I like them as the 3rd best conference. But the future of the Big 12 seems stable for now. 16 teams are better than the four that remain in the PAC-12.
Whether you like conference realignment or not, you have to admit it has changed the college football we grew up with. If you had unlimited power, how would you construct the conferences or would you keep it as it is now?
Daniel - If I had unlimited power I’d probably realign the college football landscape back to the way it was intended, but I understand why it is changing the way it is. What makes college football fun and unique are the regional and in-state rivalries, the traditions, and the spirit of the game. With all of the realignment happening we are losing a lot of those things and it is an unfortunate byproduct of where college sports is heading.
Gerald - I’m not one of these people that’s bemoaning what is currently happening. We’ve been hurtling down this path since 1984, with Fox and Disney finding a way to maximize their profits and sell more chip-and-dip commercials in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. That being said, the thing I love the most about college football is the regionality and the rivalries, and like most people, I would probably go back to the college football I first started watching. As someone who lived out of state for more than a decade, there’s nothing better than walking through the grocery store wearing Burnt Orange and a random person flashing the Hook ‘Em at you or throwing a Horns Down while waiting in line to pay. That stuff makes college football fun and while Texas moving to the SEC actually renewed two of its historic rivalries, losing the Apple Cup or Civil War in this latest round really sucks.
Cameron - I have no issue with the mega-conferences taking over college football, but I don’t like it destroying some of the old rivalries. Of course, Texas gets to renew their rivalries with Texas A&M and Arkansas by joining the SEC but we lose out on the Apple Cup and Bedlam with the PAC-12 and Big 12 being split up. With the College Football playoff expanding, conference championships mean less so why not just create one or two big conferences based on regions?
Sark and his staff landed one of their crown jewels in the ‘24 class with Duncanville’s Colin Simmons. What is the impact of the 5-star’s commitment to the Longhorns?
Daniel - I literally gushed about Simmons’ ability as a player to the point of embarrassment, but it truly can’t be understated what it means for Texas in this cycle and moving forward when he arrives on campus. Simmons possesses a talent and a skill set that literally does not exist on Texas’ current roster and I don’t mean that as disrespect towards any of the players currently on it. He is an incredibly rare talent and he is going to make a difference at the edge position for Texas the moment he arrives in Austin. On top of his impact on the field, Simmons’ impact is going to be felt on the recruiting trail as well. Simmons gives Texas yet another esteemed member from the DFW Metroplex after already having guys like Manny Muhammad, Anthony Hill, Warren Roberson, Johntay Cook, and S’Maje Burrell in Austin. Having guys like those advocating for the program in the Metroplex and throughout the state gives the staff a huge credibility boost on the recruiting trail and it amplifies their reach to other prospective recruits.
Gerald - This is the three-pronged answer from me. One, getting a Day 1 difference-maker at edge is always a massive win. They don’t make too many like Colin Simmons and having him in the fold is a multiplier for your defense. Couple that with last year’s addition of not just Anthony Hill, but stocking the cupboard at edge and LB really shores up the defense for the future as Texas heads to tougher pastures. Third, this is SEC recruiting. These are the types of battles that you’ll be in every cycle now that Texas is going into the SEC and to show that Texas has the staff, the resources, and the cache to go toe-to-toe with one of the best recruiting schools there is and to come out on top is a huge feather in their cap.
Cameron - Colin Simmons is the type of recruit that the past two staffs would miss on. Whether it be getting into the recruitment too late or burning bridges, Simmons would not have committed to Texas two years ago. Or seven years ago. What we’re seeing if how a well-run program looks. On the field, high school teams spent their whole offensive game plan trying to figure out how to get away from Simmons. And every Friday night, he would find a way to wreck that said gameplan. He’s an explosive edge and will have an impact from day one.