Within the last week, the Texas football program had 2 veteran players announce their intentions to return to the Longhorns for the 2023 season. Wide receiver Jordan Whittington and right tackle Christian Jones both had the opportunity to make the jump to the NFL but decided to stay one more year in hopes to raise their draft stock. These two will look to start and make a big impact on the offensive side of the ball. They will also play a critical role off the field as a veteran voice on a very young team. (Two Veteran Longhorns Announce Return)
Whittington will return for his 5th year looking to build upon his relative success in the 2022 season. The biggest success of last season for Whittington was simply staying healthy, as it was his first year to play in all 13 games. In those 13 games, he was able to establish himself as a reliable target in the slot with elite YAC ability. There was certainly a correlation last season between the number of touches Whittington received in a game and the offense’s success in that game. The offense looked its best with Ewers finding him on intermediate crossing routes or short screens. With the deep ball not connecting and Ewers struggling to read the field, Whittington was unable to get the touches many fans, including myself, felt he needed. The hope for next season is that the Longhorns will be able to attack down the field better with a more experienced Quinn Ewers and a deeper receiving room, thus opening up the intermediate for Whittington to feast.
Jones will utilize his covid year and return for his sixth season. Jones was forced into action early and often in his career as a product of the program lacking offensive line depth. He struggled quite a bit, causing many fans to write him off entering last season in hopes he would be replaced by a shiny new 5-star recruit. Instead, O-line coach Kyle Flood showed off a concept Texas fans haven’t seen much of in the last 10 years: development. As it turns out, development is a real thing, and Jones was a much-improved player in 2022. He took control of the right tackle job and never looked back. He was a capable pass blocker while being an exceptional run blocker. As a late bloomer (Jones didn’t start playing football until his Junior year of high school), there is still the probability that he still has much more room to improve. Furthermore, the return of Jones solidifies the return of all five starting o-linemen from last season. That unit cohesion will pay dividends as Texas looks to make a run at the Big 12 title.
Both of these guys will have a big role for the Longhorns on the field next year, as outlined above. But maybe more important will be the role they will play in the locker room as leaders. If you watched the Alamo bowl, you saw a preview of the youth that will be on the field for this team next season. The departure of Bijan, Roschon, and Overshown will hurt just as much in the locker room as it will on the field. As experienced starters, Whittington and Jones have the opportunity to fill that much-needed leadership role.
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