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Projecting the Texas depth chart vs. Rice

The Longhorns coaches are hours away from telling players where they stand on the season’s first depth chart.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Media Days Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The season opener for the Texas Longhorns against the Rice Owls on Sept. 2 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is only nine days away and that means the Texas coaching staff is close to revealing the season’s first depth chart to the players ahead of Saturday’s mock game.

“To be fair to them, they need to know who’s the first unit, who’s the second unit, who is the backup in all three phases, so that if a guy goes down, if a guy’s shoe comes off, the guy’s helmet pops off, that next guy needs to know who’s going in, and so to be fair to them, we need to continue to compete, we need to continue to find the right combination of people,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said on Monday.

Some position groups were still competing for starting jobs and rotations earlier this week coming out of the second scrimmage of preseason camp on Wednesday. Other positions have more certainty.

“I think that we’ve got a great rotation of safety. I think we’ve got a really good rotation at corner, really at the linebacker spot as well, and on the D-line. I think receiver-wise, there’s probably a little bit of a gap between those first three wideouts and the other guys, and that’s understandable — those guys have played a lot of football. But again, different position groups are different to where I’ve got to see what this looks like for a few more days before we really nail it down.”

Here’s a look at how Burnt Orange Nation projects the depth chart against Rice.

Depth chart vs. Rice

11 Name No. Name No. Name No. Name No. Name No. Name No.
11 Name No. Name No. Name No. Name No. Name No. Name No.
QB Quinn Ewers 3 Maalik Murphy 6 Arch Manning 16 Charles Wright 14
RB Jonathon Brooks 24 CJ Baxter 4 Keilan Robinson 7 Jaydon Blue 23 Savion Red 17 Tre Wisner 26
WR AD Mitchell 5 Casey Cain 88
WR Jordan Whittington 4 Johntay Cook 2 Ryan Niblett 18
WR Xavier Worthy 8 Isaiah Neyor 9 Deandre Moore Jr. 11
TE Ja'Tavion Sanders 0 Gunnar Helm 85 Juan Davis 81 Spencer Shannon 83 Will Randle 87
LT Kelvin Banks 78 Payton Kirkland 71 Trevor Goosby 74
LG Hayden Conner 75 Neto Umeozulu 52 Sawyer Goram-Welch 61 Max Merril 73
C Jake Majors 65 Connor Robertson 62 Jaydon Chatman 75
RG DJ Campbell 52 Cole Hutson 54 Connor Stroh 79
RT Christian Jones 70 Cam Williams 56 Andre Cojoe 77
BUCK END Ethan Burke 91 J'Mond Tapp 17 Colton Vasek 92 Billy Walton 31 Tausili Akana 46
NT T'Vondre Sweat 93 Byron Murphy 90 Sydir Mitchell 99 Aaron Bryant 53
DT Aflred Collins 95 Vernon Broughton 45 Trill Carter 98 Zac Swanson 96
JACK END Barryn Sorrell 88 Justice Finkley 1 Jaray Bledsoe 94 Kris Ross 97
SLB Anthony Hill Jr. 0
MIKE Jaylan Ford 41 Jett Bush --or-- 43 Liona Lefau 18 Derion Gullette 40
WILL David Gbenda 33 Anthony Hill Jr. 0 S'Maje Burrell 15
CB Terrance Brooks 8 Gavin Holmes 9 X'Avion Brice 14
FS Jerrin Thompson 28 Kitan Crawford 21 Warren Roberson 24 BJ Allen 27
BS Jalen Catalon 11 Derek Williams 3 Michael Taaffe 36 Larry Turner-Gooden 3
CB Ryan Watts 6 Malik Muhammad 5
STAR Jahdae Barron 23 Jaylon Guilbeau --or-- 13 Austin Jordan 4 Jelani McDonald 25
Special Teams
KO Will Stone 15 Ryan Sanborn 27
PK Bert Auburn 45 Will Stone 15
P Ryan Sanborn 27 Ian Ratliff 49
H Ryan Sanborn 27
DS Lance St. Louis 56 Christian Rizzi 57
KR Keilan Robinson 7 Jordan Whittington 4 Tre Wisner 26
PR Xavier Worthy 8 Johntay Cook 2
Injured Mo Blackwell (knee) 37
  • Freshman quarterback Arch Manning made up ground in the competition against redshirt freshman quarterback Maalik Murphy during camp. It’s a battle that will continue into the season, but right now, the coaches are most worried about keeping Murphy on campus for the fall.
  • The running back competition may be close enough to warrant an —or— after junior Jonathon Brooks. For now, the nod goes to seniority until freshman CJ Baxter can prove himself on the field. Senior Keilan Robinson remains the change-of-pace back.
  • Expect Texas to expand the wide receiver rotation from its normal four to five players in the opener so that Sarkisian and position coach Chris Jackson can determine who comes on the field after the three starters, who currently have separation from the rest of the room, according to Sarkisian.
  • At the tight end position, the question is whether Sarkisian wants to use junior tight end Gunnar Helm as the preferred option in 12 personnel or whether he wants employ an offensive lineman there as he did last season.
  • Expect sophomore Cole Hutson to replace any of the interior linemen if necessary with sophomore Cam Williams the next off the bench. Sarkisian also praised freshman offensive tackle Trevor Goosby recently, so he could be pushing Payton Kirland for the backup role on the left. As always, however, the backup roles are fluid — if sophomore left tackle Kelvin Banks were to leave a game, senior Christian Jones would likely switch to the left with Williams coming on at right tackle.
  • The defensive line is similarly fluid with junior Byron Murphy essentially a co-starter with senior T’Vondre Sweat and senior Alfred Collins. Texas may also use heavier personnel along the defensive line at times. The X-factor is redshirt freshman Jaray Bledsoe, who is known for his flexibility and twitchiness — he could spend time at Buck end or inside as a defensive tackle and is a potential breakout candidate this season.
  • In the situational pass-rush role, junior Mo Blackwell and freshman Anthony Hill Jr. are the prime candidates. Blackwell is fast and violent, but Hill is bigger and has more natural instincts at the position. Look at them as filling slightly different roles rather than playing the position interchangeably.
  • At middle linebacker, the battle to watch is between senior Jett Bush, the former walk on who has always played on the edge, and freshman Liona Lefau, who has been making plays in practice. Bush is probably ahead of Lefau at this point, but the freshman is coming on fast.
  • Although senior David Gbenda looks like the clear starter at Will linebacker, Texas needs him to be more disciplined or Blackwell and Hill could get more extended looks as the season moves along.
  • The rotation at field cornerback could also include freshman Malik Muhammad, a playmaker in both scrimmages.
  • Nickel is one of the deepest positions on the team with sophomore Jaylon Guilbeau serving as something of a co-starter with senior Jahdae Barron last season before Barron took over the role and Guilbeau went down with a season-ending knee injury. The question now is whether Guilbeau is ahead of or behind sophomore Austin Jordan. But freshman Jelani McDonald is another player who consistently receives mention from Sarkisian even though he’s just enrolled in June.
  • Beyond the health of senior safety Jalen Catalon’s shoulder, the rotation behind Catalon is another storyline to watch with the release of the official depth chart. How high is freshman Derek Williams? Was senior Kitan Crawford able to build on a good spring to stay ahead of sophomore Michael Taaffe, who was more reliable last season? Has freshman Warren Roberson passed older players, as predicted here?
  • Beyond Robinson serving as the primary kick returner and junior Xavier Worthy as the primary punt returner, the backup situation is less clear. Fortunately, there is much more clarity at the specialist positions compared to 2022.

Update [8/28 11:57 a.m. Central] — During Sarkisian’s Monday press conference, the Texas head coach revealed that Blackwell is out for “a couple of weeks” with an injury. Sarkisian also said that Campbell and Hutson will rotate at right guard against Rice without revealing which player will receive the start.

Update [8/31 4:25 p.m. Central] — On Thursday, Sarkisian revealed that Campbell will start over Hutson at right guard. And despite saying that practice this week would determine the backup quarterback role, Sarkisian was unwilling to name a winner between Murphy and Manning.

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