A Texas Longhorns tight end room that can afford some immediate help got just that on Sunday, as Steve Sarkisian and his staff earned a commitment from Alabama transfer Jahleel Billingsley, according to Inside Texas.
After being recruited by Longhorns tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Banks as a former consensus four-star prospect in the 2019 class, Billingsey enjoyed a bit of a breakout season in 2020 in what was then Sarkisian’s offense, hauling in 18 receptions for 287 yards and three scores. He fell just a bit shy of that mark most recently, and more notably didn’t excell further under Bill O’Brien in 2021, catching 17 passes for 256 yards and three more touchdowns in an uneven campaign, and the day after it ended, he entered the portal.
Once he did, the connections to Texas were obvious with so many former Crimson Tide coaches now in Austin. So, when Billingsley arrived in Austin on Friday for an official visit, it almost felt like a formality given that classes start on Monday. And now, when they do, Billingsley will be a Longhorn.
Where does he fit into the roster now that he is?
Texas may have come into 2021 with seven scholarship tight ends, but the impact and production from the position were minimal in the first year under Sarkisian.
Senior Cade Brewer, who graduated after taking an extra year of eligibility thanks to the COVID-19 rules, led all tight ends with just 22 receptions and three touchdowns in 12 starts this year. That includes three games in which he did not record a reception. Jared Wiley was the No. 2 producer of the tight ends, turning in just nine catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns. However, he too will not be a part of the team next year as he announced his transfer to the TCU Horned Frogs.
For 2022, Texas returns a core of young talent at the position, with fourth-year Brayden Liebrock — who is returning after missing all of 2021 due to injury — as the only player who has been on campus more than one year. Gunner Helm, who appeared third on the depth chart to close the season in 2021, Juan Davis, and Ja’Tavion Sanders round out a trio of talented, but inexperienced options for Texas at the tight end spot.
This means that Billingsley, who has three years at Alabama under his belt, can step in and instantly be the most experienced player in the room.
In Sarkisian’s offense, which employs a significant amount of two tight end sets, Texas must find options in Jeff Banks’ room that are both willing blockers and able to make a play as a receiver. Billingsley, in three years at Alabama, amassed 559 yards and six touchdowns, half of which came in 2020, the last year Sarkisian served as the offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide.
For Texas, Billingsley adds the potential of an instant contributor at the position, while Billingsley gets the opportunity to improve his resume for a potential NFL future.