Notable Texas football newcomers to know before the season kicks off

Katie Borchetta, Sports Reporter

The offseason has been a busy one for Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns, who brought in 35 new players between freshmen and transfer commitments.

With 85 total scholarships available, 35 incoming players in one class represents large roster turnover for Sarkisian, who heads into his second year in Austin.

The Daily Texan compiled a list of some notable names from the 2022 class for Longhorns fans to get to know: 

Quarterback Quinn Ewers

After a freshman season at Ohio State in which Ewers redshirted, buried on the depth chart in a deep quarterback room, the quarterback from Southlake, Texas entered the transfer portal. Nine days later, the former top quarterback recruit in the country committed to Texas. 

His short time with the Buckeyes didn’t allow Ewers to see the field except for two snaps, but Ewers’ high school accolades shine light on why he was the top recruit in his class. During his time at Southlake Carroll High School, Ewers was named MaxPreps National Sophomore of the Year in 2019 and Texas District 5-6A Overall MVP the same year. His junior season was cut short with a core injury, but Ewers returned and led the Dragons to an appearance in the Texas 6A D-I state championship game.

“It’s always been my dream to be a Longhorn,” Ewers wrote in the Players’ Tribune in May. “And now, 16 years and a transfer later, I’m getting a chance to create my own legacy with the Longhorns.” 

Other offensive additions

Two other high-profile transfers that Sarkisian earned commitments from are senior tight end Jahleel Billingsley from Alabama and junior wide receiver Isaiah Neyor from Wyoming.

Billingsley played in 36 games for the Crimson Tide and caught six touchdowns in three seasons under head coach Nick Saban. Neyor earned second-team All-Mountain West honors last year after recording 12 touchdowns and was one of the top receivers in the transfer portal.

“I think it’s healthy to have balance on your offense,” Sarkisian said at a National Signing Day press conference in February. “Adding Jahleel, adding Neyor to go along with Xavier (Worthy) and then knowing what we have now in the backfield … 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.”

Another new talent that has generated excitement is running back Jaydon Blue. The freshman ranked sixth among all running backs and 18th among all Texas recruits in the 2022 class by 247Sports. Blue’s impressive 2,155 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns in his junior year at Klein Cain High School in Houston make him a local talent with high upside.

Cornerback Ryan Watts

In an effort to strengthen Texas’ defense, the Longhorns’ coaching staff added several new defensive backs to the roster. 

Along with Ewers, junior cornerback Ryan Watts also transferred from Ohio State. In two seasons for the Buckeyes, Watts played in 19 games and recorded two interceptions as a key piece in the Ohio State secondary. Watts was also ranked as the 17th best cornerback in the 2020 class by ESPN and was a notable two-way player who saw time at cornerback, safety and wide receiver during his career at Little Elm High School in Texas.

Other defensive additions

Freshmen Terrance Brooks and B.J. Allen Jr. were respectively ranked No. 11 and No. 17 in the Texas Top 25 Class of 2022 and No. 24 and No. 70 overall nationally by USA Today. Brooks played his senior year on a Little Elm High School defense that allowed an average of just 109 passing yards a game while Allen Jr. collected 26 solo tackles and four interceptions his senior year for Aledo High School.

Freshman Jaylon Guilbeau ranked No. 20 among cornerbacks and freshman Larry Turner-Gooden ranked No. 24 among safeties by 247Sports. Freshman defensive lineman Aaron Bryant also ranked No. 23 in the nation for defensive tackles. Another new player that has the potential to impact the upcoming season is freshman edge rusher Justice Finkley. Bryant and Finkley earned praise from Sarkisian for their efforts in practice during the spring. 

“Both Justice and Aaron I think are really coachable kids,” Sarkisian said after the spring game in April. “They both really improved this spring … both guys have a bright future for us.”

With the many new talents, building a cohesive team is a challenge that faces Sarkisian and his staff heading into year two. Establishing connection and familiarity throughout the roster is an area that Sarkisian said he saw improvement in throughout the spring.

“That’s going to get us a long way,” Sarkisian said. “If we can continue to build on that brotherhood, that mentality … that’s a great sign for us moving forward.”