After Texas’ 8-5 2022 campaign, Sark is still looking to build up the roster to the overall talent level it needs to be at in order to compete on the biggest stages. He has been successful doing so on the recruiting front after signing back-to-back top 5 classes. While having that talent in the pipeline is a crucial piece of the puzzle, a program does not want to rely on freshmen for serious contributions. Texas enters 2023 in “win now” mode, and luckily for Sark the future is now in college football. The transfer portal allows teams to fill immediate needs with experienced players.
Last year, Sark used the portal as a means to increase the roster’s overall talent level by any means necessary. That meant taking low-floor, high-ceiling players that could pay off big, regardless of culture fit. That gamble paid off for some more than others. The Longhorns did hit big on DB Ryan Watts and QB Quinn Ewers. LB Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey provided some quality snaps, while WR Agiye Hall and TE Jahleel Billingsly proved to be busts. WR Isaiah Neyor looks to be a big addition as well, but he missed last season with a torn ACL.
This year, Sark is taking a different, more patient approach to the portal. With the aforementioned recruiting classes, there are fewer glaring roster needs and less desperation to take any top-level player this time around. Texas needed to add a safety, wide receiver, and EDGE. Beyond that, Texas would only take a top-level talent that could not be turned away.
Given those needs, Sark still was patient. He did not send out a bunch of offers to the numerous wide receivers who put their name into the portal. In fact, Texas did not address the WR need until the very last day of the portal window with Georgia transfer AD Mitchell. Meanwhile, Texas seriously pursued only 2 safeties. Syracuse transfer Ja’had Carter was prioritized by the staff but elected to go to Ohio State. Texas then pursued and landed a commitment from Arkansas transfer Jalen Catalon. Texas also added CB Gavin Holmes and P Ryan Sanborn in order to nail down those positions.
AD Mitchell – WR
Mitchell is the highest-rated transfer of the group, bringing much-needed top-level talent to the Texas receiver room. His experience, especially in big moments, will help him see the field early and often. Mitchell possesses length that makes him great at reeling in contested balls, a trait sorely missing in the Longhorn’s current wide receiver room. His ceiling is a WR1 that is a 3rd down and red zone target, while also demanding attention that frees up Xavier Worthy, Isaiah Neyor, and Jordan Whittington.
Jalen Catalon – S
Texas barely missed out on Catalon as a recruit out of high school in the midst of Tom Herman’s regime. Luckily, they didn’t miss out the second time around. Catalon is a prototypical boundary safety who is able to attack downfield with physicality while also exhibiting elite instincts in coverage. Catalan’s biggest question mark is health. He only started 7 games in the last 2 seasons combined. Still, the staff deemed his upside worthy of a take. If he is able to remain healthy, Texas will have one of the top safety tandems in the nation with Catalon and Jerrin Thompson.
Gavin Holmes – CB
Holmes comes to Austin from Wake Forest, where he held down a CB spot for 11 games last year. In a Texas secondary that features multiple players who can play multiple positions, Holmes is a true corner. His presence will allow fellow CB’s Terrance Brooks and Austin Jordan to take some looks at star and safety. This will ultimately allow Texas to have a starting lineup of truly the best 5 players in the secondary.
Ryan Sanborn – P
Sanborn brings stability to a Texas punting room that has lacked it in recent years. Daniel Trejo ended up doing a fine job last year but was not consistent or elite. Sanborn’s experience will help minimize mistakes, and hopefully, he will be able to help Texas win games in the margins.
As evidenced above, these few additions bring a lot of experience, stability, and versatility to the Texas roster. By filling roster holes with talented players, Texas is one step closer to getting over the hump and finally contending for a Big 12 title again.
The next portal window will open after spring practices. Texas’ needs may shift between now and then depending on portal exits, but Texas fans can have comfort in Sark’s ability to identify players that are perfect fits both on the field and in the locker room.