Sarkisian reflects on Texas football’s progress as spring training concludes

Carter Yates

The Texas football team’s spring practice period officially ended with the conclusion of the Orange-White Spring Game on Saturday, but head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff aren’t taking their feet off the gas.

The Longhorns have secured three new 2021 commits in the past week alone, including transfer linebackers Devin Richardson and Ben Davis and wideout Xavier Worthy, the No. 8-ranked receiver by ESPN in the 2021 recruiting class. Richardson and Davis give Texas four transfers with immediate eligibility for the 2021 season, along with linebackers Ovie Oghoufo from Notre Dame and Ray Thornton from LSU.

Sarkisian made it clear Tuesday, however, that these transfers are only guaranteed the opportunity to compete as opposed to playing time.

“It’s free agency in college football, quite frankly. That’s the hand we’re dealt. These are the rules we’re set to play by, and you either play by them or you don’t,” Sarkisian said. “I think we have to be careful as coaches in general of making promises that we can’t keep.”

But even though the Longhorns are gaining transfers at a rapid pace, they’ve lost their share of players to the NCAA transfer portal too. Junior tight end Malcolm Epps announced Monday his intentions to transfer from the program after accumulating 292 yards and four touchdowns in his three years at Texas. Epps played in the spring game Saturday.

However, the Longhorns are flush with depth at the position. Texas is returning veterans senior Cade Brewer and junior Jared Wiley and has added early enrollees Gunnar Helm and Juan Davis.

“You could argue the most important position after quarterback in our system is the tight end,” Sarkisian said. “We ask him to be a run game blocker, whether it’s inline or blocking linebackers. We ask for him to have a heavy influence in our pass protection. Then we ask them to have a big influence in our passing game as a receiver.”

After having a chance to watch the film from Saturday’s spring game, Sarkisian said the nine sacks the offense allowed were far too many. Sarkisian said pass protection is about more than just the offensive lineman and the responsibility falls on everyone on the offense.

“I think everybody has a responsibility in pass protection,” Sarkisian said. “(It’s the) (s)ame with the tight ends, same with the runners, and then the quarterbacks understanding pocket integrity.”

But the bevy of sacks wasn’t entirely due to poor offensive play. Sarkisian said the defensive line has drastically improved since the start of the spring and that the team’s up-tempo practice style has conditioned its front four.

“I think our defensive line really has played at a high level,” Sarkisian said. “They got in better shape throughout spring as we went, but internally, that became a relatively deep position for us.”

Sarkisian said he and the staff have a good understanding of the weapons they have on the roster, but the summer workout period will be integral to the team’s success in the fall.

“We’ve got a pretty good understanding of the individual players (and) where we’re at as a team,” Sarkisian said. “This summer will be big, not just developing our speed and strength but getting ready for the influx of the remaining freshmen.”