We are approaching the 2021 college football season and one of the most intriguing teams to follow is the Texas Longhorns. They’re led by new head coach Steve Sarkisian and have lots of turnover and new faces to keep an eye on as well. Can Sarkisian be the guy to finally get Texas back into National Championship contention? That remains to be seen, but if he’s going to get there, here are the three things that will define what happens on the offensive side of the ball this season.
1. Casey Thompson or Hudson Card?
For the last four seasons, Texas has had Sam Ehlinger as their man at quarterback. But now Texas has a quarterback battle ongoing between Hudson Card and Casey Thompson. Obviously, everyone remembers Casey Thompson from his memorable Alamo Bowl performance against Colorado where he lit up the Buffaloes defense to the tune of four touchdown passes. And while Thompson has a little more experience, Card was a high-level prospect in the Class of 2020, who also has enormous potential. The two split reps during spring and that is expected to continue.
But no matter what, whoever gets the job, and I would give Thompson the edge for the upcoming season, they need to be able to lead this offense in an effective and efficient manner for Texas to come close to meeting its always-lofty expectations this fall.
2. Bijan for Heisman?
Earlier this offseason, CBS Sports predicted Texas RB Bijan Robinson to win the 2021 Heisman Trophy. The hype is real for the former five-star prospect after he ended the 2020 season in incredible fashion. Here are the numbers in his last two games as a freshman: 19 carries, 355 yards, 18.7 yards per carry. 5 receptions, 88 yards, 17.6 yards per reception. 6 total touchdowns.
Maybe those have created unreasonable expectations, but guess what, that comes with the territory in Austin and he seems more than ready to embrace it. If Bijan is able to build off how the 2020 season ended, it will help ease in the new quarterback who is learning a new system, and get this offense humming right out of the gates, which would be enormous for this team.
Growth from the offensive line
The offensive line does have questions, but thanks to how last season ended, Texas fans should have some optimism. When Samuel Cosmi opted out of the season to prepare for the NFL draft prior to the Kansas State game, true freshman tackle Andrej Karic filled in at left tackle and the Longhorns actually looked improved in pass and run blocking. Also in that game, true freshman center Jake Majors took over and helped produce an incredible day for the Texas running attack. Then in the Alamo Bowl, sophomore guard Tyler Johnson looked solid and disciplined. Oh, and Steve Sarkisian poached Alabama offensive line coach Kyle Flood.
If this unit gels into one of the best in the Big 12, it changes the entire offense. As good as Sam Ehlinger was, he was sacked 20 times in his last two seasons. Sometimes Sam tried to do too much, but most of the time it was because he had to. Stabilizing this offensive line behind veterans like Derek Kerstetter, Christian Jones, Denzel Okafor and Junior Angilau, while mixing in the new, promising young guys in Karic and Majors, gives this team potential for an offensive line that it hasn’t had in quite some time.