University of Texas Longhorn Football — A Look Ahead into the 2021 Season

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Campus.  Dating from 1883 and now educating roughly 51,000 students, a 2020 study by U.S. News and World Report ranked The University of Texas 14th among Top Public Universities. Noted for special excellence were programs in Accounting, Civil Engineering, and Geology. Its 437 manicured acres — including the LBJ Presidential Library and the signature Tower — lie 195 miles South of Dallas by way of Interstate I-35 in the Lone Star Capital city of Austin. This article will focus on the Darryl K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, whose 94,000-seat capacity is home to Longhorn NCAA Division I football teams. 

The Strong History. The Longhorns’ all-time wins exceed 900, and combines with a .705 winning percentage, to place them at 3rd and 7th in sports, respectively in NCAA annals. Along the way, they earned four national crowns, 32 conference titles (it now competes in the Big 12), no fewer than 100 All-Americans, and two Heisman Trophy Award winners. Under head coach Mack Brown, the 2005 team claimed its lone Bowl Championship Series post-season tournament, a thrilling 41-38 Rose Bowl triumph over USC. That year’s 13-0 slate left Texas the Nation’s only D-1 unbeaten, untied unit. An NCAA record of 652 points scored, six graduating players off to the NFL has led to widespread consideration as among the best college football team in history. More recently a New Year’s Day 2019 Sugar Bowl 28-21 upset over the favored Georgia Bulldogs lifted the Horns to 2nd all-time with 55 major Bowl appearances, for which they can boast a 30 – 23 – 2 lifetime record. A few recent decade players of note include Butkus and Nagurski Award-winning Line Backer Derrick Johnson; school record-holding passer Quarterback Colt McCoy; and his immediate predecessor at signal-caller, a 30-2 career and Rose Bowl-winning Quarterback Vince Young. 

The Present. Under head coach Tom Harmon, the two recent Seasons pulled up short of expectations. A 2019 overall 8-5 record gained a birth to the Alamo Bowl, not the worst but far from the team’s more accustomed spotlight. This was followed by a Covid-related truncated 2020 campaign, leading to a 7-3 slate played in front of sparse gatherings. Worse, in each Season defeat was administered by the arch-rival Sooners of Oklahoma. Longhorn faithful understandably itched for changes — it did not require a long wait. 

The Unfolding 2021 Story. January 2nd of this year brought the announcement from Athletic Director Chris del Conte that Harmon had been replaced by former Alabama Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian. A former pass-oriented QB at scoring-minded BYU, the 47-year-old Sarkisian brings a 46-35 collegiate head coaching record to Austin. The first order of business for him and the staff was planning for and execution of an incoming class of Longhorn recruits. 

The Hopes. Nine of the initial 10 recruits hail from Texas, and each grades out at 4-Stars. Although headed by Safety Bryan Allen, Jr. from Aledo, and presumably stemming from Sarkisian’s intent to light up the scoreboards, the list is liberally sprinkled with running backs, wide receivers, a quarterback, and a pair of offensive linemen. Initial reviews were lukewarm, with Texas ranking 16th in the Nation.  But then two mid-to-late Spring breakthroughs burst onto the scene. April 24th brought word that Fresno, California native and speed merchant Xavier Worthy had “flipped” his commitment from Michigan to Texas. Then in early June brought the arrival of another standout Wide Receiver, 5-Star rated Ja’Tavio Sanders out of nearby Denton High School. Since the Longhorns are widely credited with a primetime assembly of newcomers in the 2022 Class, boosters and rooters may justifiably indulge a dose of optimism that coming seasons will restore The University of Texas football to the upper NCAA tiers.         

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