Classes and winter conditioning have been underway for the Texas Longhorns after early enrollees arrived on the Forty Acres in mid-January. With the spring roster set, Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff have filled nearly every remaining need through the NCAA transfer portal beyond a desire to upgrade the field corner position and unproven options at nose tackle.
So it’s worth taking a look at how the depth chart could look for the Longhorns this fall, expanded from a two deep to include every player on the roster.
Projected 2024 Texas depth chart
|DeAndre Moore Jr.
|Johntay Cook --or--
|Amari Niblack --or--
|Aaron Bryant --or--
|Tiaoalii Savea --or--
|Anthony Hill Jr.
|Jaylon Guilbeau --or--
|Lance St. Louis
Returning: Redshirt junior Quinn Ewers, redshirt freshman Arch Manning
Departing: Charles Wright (transfer portal), Maalik Murphy (transfer portal)
Newcomer: Four-star Trey Owens
The return of Ewers for a third season as the starting quarterback helps Texas transition to the SEC with plenty of experience and allows another season of development for Manning, who slides into the backup role with the departure of Murphy to Duke. When Owens committed last year, he projected as the potential fifth-string quarterback in 2024, but things change quickly at the position and his bet on himself will pay off as one of three scholarship quarterbacks for the Longhorns.
Returning: Sophomore CJ Baxter, junior Jaydon Blue, junior Savion Red, sophomore Tre Wisner
Departing: Jonathon Brooks (NFL Draft), Keilan Robinson (NFL Draft)
Newcomers: Four-star Jerrick Gibson, three-star Christian Clark
The injury to Brooks and subsequent declaration for the NFL Draft allowed Blue to demonstrate his big-play ability and reveal his fit in the offense, a significant development for the Longhorns given his previous trajectory and overall upside. Blue will compete with Baxter for the starting role — with a strong offseason, the Klein Cain product could become a co-starter. Red and Wisner showed enough in blowouts to maintain their spots ahead of Gibson and Clark despite the former ranking as a top-100 prospect. The battle for the No. 3 spot will be a spirited one throughout the offseason, but having six running backs on scholarship could result in some attrition during the spring transfer window.
Returning: Sophomore Johntay Cook, sophomore DeAndre Moore Jr., redshirt freshman Ryan Niblett
Departing: AD Mitchell (NFL Draft), Jordan Whittington (graduation), Xavier Worthy (NFL Draft), Casey Cain (transfer portal), Isaiah Neyor (transfer portal)
Newcomers: Alabama transfer Isaiah Bond, Houston transfer Matthew Golden, Oregon State transfer Silas Bolden, five-star Ryan Wingo, four-star Aaron Butler, three-star Freddie Dubose, three-star Parker Livingstone
The likelihood of draft declarations from Mitchell and Worthy made wide receiver a pressing need for the Longhorns when the transfer window opened in December. Sarkisian and new position coach Chris Jackson completely revamped the room, adding playmakers in Bond, Golden, and Bolden while holding onto Wingo after a late push from home-state Missouri.
The transfer portal additions afford another year of development for the returning players and reduce the pressure on the true freshmen to contribute with Cook the most likely to compete for a starting job out of those two groups. Since Bolden is a summer enrollee, Cook is listed as the co-starter for now.
Instead of wondering who Ewers will throw the ball to, the biggest offseason storyline at the position now becomes whether Sarkisian will expand his rotation this season after the backups only received 84 combined snaps in 2023.
Returning: Senior Gunnar Helm, senior Juan Davis, redshirt sophomore Malik Ago, redshirt freshman Spencer Shannon, redshirt freshman Will Randle
Departing: Ja’Tavion Sanders (NFL Draft)
Newcomers: Alabama transfer Amari Niblack, four-star Jordan Washington
Despite the numbers at the position, the loss of Sanders left Texas without a clear playmaker at tight end, necessitating the addition of Niblack from Alabama. More of an oversized receiver, Niblack adds athleticism to the room with Helm returning in his in-line role. Davis was quickly in and out of the portal in January, but his chances of playing time beyond special teams took a hit when Niblack signed.
Returning: Redshirt senior Jake Majors, redshirt junior Hayden Conner, redshirt junior Max Merril, Agbo, junior Kelvin Banks, junior DJ Campbell, junior Cole Hutson, junior Cam Williams, redshirt sophomore Neto Umeozulu, redshirt sophomore Conner Robertson, redshirt freshman Jaydon Chatman, redshirt freshman Connor Stroh, redshirt freshman Andre Cojoe, redshirt freshman Payton Kirkland, redshirt freshman Trevor Goosby
Departing: Christian Jones (graduation)
Newcomers: Five-star Brandon Baker, four-star Daniel Cruz, three-star Nate Kibble
With four returning starters, Texas has stability and experience along the line with Williams set to move into the role vacated by Jones at right tackle, potentially providing an upgrade despite the improvement of Jones under position coach Kyle Flood. That leaves battles to make the two deep like Cruz competing with Robertson and Baker challenging returning players at the tackle positions.
Returning: Super senior Alfred Collins, redshirt senior Vernon Broughton, redshirt sophomore Jaray Bledsoe, redshirt sophomore Aaron Bryant, redshirt sophomore Zac Swanson, redshirt freshman Sydir Mitchell
Departing: T’Vondre Sweat (graduation), Byron Murphy (graduation), Trill Carter (transfer portal)
Newcomers: Arizona transfer Tiaoalii Savea Three-star Alex January, three-star Melvin Hills
Following the loss of D’antre Robinson, the highest-ranked 2024 defensive tackle signee, there’s a significant gap between the departures and the additions, hence the need to add a starting-caliber player from the transfer portal in Savea. Texas is counting on late-career improvements from Colins and Broughton and need another young player to step up, with Bledsoe and Mitchell the most likely candidates. A major storyline — who will play the nose tackle position vacated by Sweat? If the coaches aren’t satisfied with the development of Bryant and Mitchell during the spring and the right player is available in the transfer portal, the Longhorns could and should make another addition.
Returning: Senior Barryn Sorrell, junior Ethan Burke, junior Justice Finley, junior J’mond Tapp, redshirt freshman Colton Vasek, redshirt freshman Billy Walton, redshirt freshman Tausili Akana
Departing: Kris Ross (transfer portal)
Newcomers: UTSA transfer Trey Moore, five-star Colin Simmons, four-star Zina Umeozulu
The return of Sorrell gives Texas both starters back on the edge, but the addition of Moore, the AAC Defensive Player of the Year, could move Burke to Jack end at times to split snaps with Sorrell. For now Moore is at strong-side linebacker along with Simmons and Akana because of concerns about his size and run defense. It’s a position that the Longhorns needed to upgrade and bringing in Moore and Simmons should accomplish that, whether they end up playing at SAM or Buck.
Returning: Super senior David Gbenda, sophomore Anthony Hill Jr., sophomore Liona Lefua, redshirt freshman Derion Gullette, redshirt freshman S’Maje Burrell
Departing: Jaylan Ford (NFL Draft)
Newcomers: Alabama transfer Kendrick Blackshire, four-star Tyanthony Smith
The staff kept Gbenda around to provide experience and leadership in an inexperienced position room that could feature some moving parts during the offseason. Does Gbenda remain at his weak-side spot to back up Hill, an emerging star? Does he move to middle linebacker to compete with Blackshire, who played sparingly on defense during his three seasons in Tuscaloosa? Or does new linebackers coach Johnny Nansen opt to flip Gbenda and Hill to Mike and move Blackshire to Will since the Mike position actually involves more coverage drops, a weakness for Blackshire? For now, the projection is Blackshire as the starter at Mike ahead of Lefau, who only played 46 snaps on defense in 2023, until some clarity emerges in the spring.
Returning: Super senior Jahdae Barron, senior Gavin Holmes, junior Terrance Brooks, junior Austin Jordan, junior Jaylon Guilbeau, sophomore Malik Muhammad, redshirt freshman Warren Roberson
Departing: Ryan Watts (NFL Draft), X’Avion Brice (transfer portal)
Newcomers: Four-star Kobe Black, four-star Wardell Mack, four-star Santana Wilson
Barron coming back for his fifth season headlines a loaded nickel back position while Muhammad assumes the starting role in the boundary that Watts held when healthy and Brooks rotates with Holmes to the boundary. Texas missed on Washington transfer Jabbar Muhammad in an attempt to create more competition and could continue that search after Muhammad opted to play his final season of college football for Oregon.
Returning: Redshirt junior Michael Taaffe, sophomore Derek Williams, sophomore Jelani McDonald
Departing: Jerrin Thompson (transfer portal), Kitan Crawford (transfer portal), BJ Allen (transfer portal), Larry Turner-Gooden (transfer portal)
Newcomers: Clemson transfer Andrew Mukuba, five-star Xavier Filsaime, three-star Jordon Johnson-Rubell
Turnover in the safety room leaves Texas with little returning experience, increasing the importance of adding Mukuba, the LBJ product, who will play safety since Barron is coming back for another year. He’ll start next to Williams, a rising star who will combine with Mukuba to make the position less vulnerable in coverage in 2024. Expect McDonald to move to safety because of the depth at nickel back, a change alluded to by players before the Sugar Bowl.
Returning: Senior kicker Bert Auburn, junior kicker Will Stone, junior deep snapper Lance St. Louis, sophomore holder Ian Ratliff
Departing: Worthy, Robinson, punter and holder Ryan Sanborn
Newcomers: Golden, Bolden, three-star punter Michael Kerns
Special teams coordinator Jeff Banks returns a strong core on special teams, including Auburn and Stone, but has to replace Sanborn after one season, a task made more difficult by the fact that Kerns doesn’t arrive until the summer. The hope is that Kerns arrives ready to contribute so that Banks doesn’t have to find a punter during preseason camp like he did with Daniel Trejo in 2022. The departures of Worthy and Robinson mean that Banks has to replace both his return men, roles that Golden and Bolden are expected to fill with plenty of other talent available for those phases, too.