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Texas' Passing Attack Stepping In the Right Direction

The Longhorns' offense put up lackluster passing numbers last season

The 2021 college football season is in the rearview mirror for the Texas Longhorns. And after a 5-7 season, there’s no way to go but up. 

Coach Steve Sarkisian and the Texas coaching staff seem to share this mindset. They’ve used the past two months of the offseason to ramp up the team in a big way heading into year two, particularly in the passing game. 

"I think now, we're getting ourselves some balance here in where we want to go offensively, where you can't just hone in on one or two guys," Sarkisian said during National Signing Day on Wednesday. 

Sark also brought on former Pitt wide receiver coach Brennan Marion in order to revamp the receiving corps. The Panthers finished the year ranking No. 5 in the nation in passing, averaging 350.2 yards per game.

Marion was also vital in Pittsburgh wideout Jordan Addison winning the 2021 Biletnikoff award, which goes to the nation's top wide receiver. 

"If you watch the receivers at Pitt a year ago in a scheme that is similar to ours, you see the detail and the way they play, you see the competitiveness, you see the ball skills," Sarkisian said. "That was probably the biggest thing that jumped out."

Will it be enough to improve on the third-worst passing yardage (2,705 total yards) in the Big 12 last season? 


Returners

No surprises on who Texas’ No. 1 receiver will be next season. Xavier Worthy will once again be the top target in Sark’s offense, regardless of whether it’s Hudson Card or Quinn Ewers taking over QB duties. 

worthy

Worthy will be lining up alongside Jordan Whittington, who put up the second-most receiving yards on the team despite missing five games with a broken collarbone. 

There was speculation he would emerge as the No. 1 option at the beginning of last season, but that title clearly rests on Worthy's shoulders. Whittington will still bring valuable production from the slot as a powerful runner after the catch. 

Sarkisian spoke on Whittington's value to the team this past season. 

"Going into the OU game, Jordan Whittington was having a heck of a season for us," Sarkisian said. "He was a really critical component for us on third down. The guy extended drives and he was great in the slot."

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The head coach also called third-string running back Keilan Robinson a "wildcard" and "a versatile guy." During his first season at Texas, the Alabama transfer saw inconsistent playing time but proved his talent in a small sample. He could bring another element to the offense with his speed, whether he's placed in the backfield or in the slot as a former receiver. 

Other important returners include Marcus Washington and Kelvontay Dixon. Both contributed down the stretch of last season due to Whittington's injury and Joshua Moore entering the transfer portal. 

"I think we're gonna see another big step out of Marcus Washington," Sarkisian said.

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Wide receiver Troy Omerie is still in the rehab process from a knee injury he sustained during fall practice. He has loads of potential but is still a major question mark after suffering his second knee injury in as many seasons. Omerie still hasn't played a snap as a Longhorn.

Transfers

It's always intriguing to see which new faces arrive via the transfer portal. The Longhorns saw just four players transfer into the program this offseason, including two pass-catchers. 

A transfer from Wyoming, wide receiver Isaiah Neyor brings stability and possession receiver skills to the Texas offense. 

neyor

Last season, the Fort Worth native was an efficient receiver that made the most of each touch. Despite just 44 catches on the season, which averages to a little more than three grabs per game, Neyor was tied for fifth in the country in receiving scores (12) and average yards per catch (20.0).

Also arriving to the Forty Acres and already enrolled in spring classes, former Alabama tight end Jahleel Billingsley has the potential to be what OJ Howard was for the Tide when Sarkisian first arrived in Tuscaloosa as an interim offensive coordinator in 2016.

Billingsley has effortless receiving skills that can add another layer of production for Sark's offense. He'll have to prove he can be an effective blocker in the run game or with chips in pass protection, but there's little doubt he can top Cade Brewer's 22 receptions and three touchdowns from last season.

Jahleel Billingsley

He's already played under Sark and should have little trouble settling in to things. 

"A kid who played really well for us (at Alabama)," Sarkisian said. "Obviously, huge upside kid, very talented pass receiver. He was a physical run blocker for us."

Recruits

The Longhorns pulled him some talented receivers on the recruiting trail, but it's unknown how much each of them will see the field this season. 

The offense could see some spark with the additions of freshmen Savion Red and Xavion Brice. Both are listed as athletes who could see playing time in the secondary. Still, Sarkisian might make room for some touches on offense when he feels the time is right. 

Wideout Brenan Thompson (Spearman, TX) was another talented grab for the offense. He was recruited by elite programs like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma State, Oregon, and Texas A&M, but decided to come to Austin. 

The talent is clearly there for the incoming freshman, but it remains to be seen how they'll be utilized.


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