2023 Recruiting Class Update: Spring

How will the early reports of 2023 compare to the 2022 class?

The 2023 recruiting class is in full swing, and were already starting to see highly touted recruits make their commitments.

Sitting pretty:

Leading the pack thus far is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish headlined by five star defensive end Keon Keeley. First year head coach Marcus Freeman is hitting the recruiting trail hard ahead of his first campaign at the helm. Look for more big time commits in the coming weeks with playmakers like wide receiver Carnell Tate (IMG Academy, FL) and Braylon James (Del Valle, TX).

The next team having a surprisingly good start to the cycle is Tennessee. Coach Heupel’s second class at the helm is headlined by five star quarterback, Nicholaus Iamaleava (Long Beach Poly, CA) and four star tight end, Ethan Hill (Collins Hill, GA). The Vols are also in the top 5 schools for wide receiver Carnell Tate(IMG Academy, FL).

The final up-trending team is one completely out of left-field, currently sitting at the number two spot at this time. The Texas Tech Red Raiders are making a splash in the recruiting scene with four 4 stars committed to Joey McGuire’s program thusfar. They’re still in the mix for 4 star safety, Ryan Yaites (Denton, TX). Keep a close eye on this Texas Tech class as they look to load up for the new Big 12.

Off to a slow start:

The first team in this category will not be here for long, the Alabama Crimson Tide are currently 33rd in the nation for the 2023 class. Now we all know how this goes, Bama gets off to a slow start and then dominate the national signing days.

The Tide are in the mix for current consensus number one recruit Arch Manning (Isodore Newman, LA). They are also in the mix for the top 2 running backs, 3 of the top 5 receivers and the top 2 offensive tackles in the class. Don’t expect Saban and company to stay this low for too much longer with kids taking their official spring visits.

The second team off to a slow start is the Texas Longhorns. The ‘Horns are currently sitting at 25th in the national rankings, but are in the mix for some big name recruits. Targets for Texas are headlined by 5* quarterback, Arch Manning (Isodore Newman, LA), but also include 4* receiver Johntay Cook (DeSoto, TX) and 5* running back Reuben Owens (El Campo, TX). Sarkisian and company are off to a slow start, but just like Alabama, will not stay here for much longer.

On life support:

Jumping over to the west coast for the first time today, we spotlight Oregon for our final breakdown of the day. Coach Lanning is off to a very slow start with his first class at the helm. Cristobal leaving for Miami has hurt the Ducks recruiting class as they dropped out of the top 15 for the 2022 class after his departure.

Lanning looks to build his class from the ground up, but sitting at 45th in the nation he is going to need to build momentum and quick. They are in the mix for 5* defensive back Javien Toviano (Martin, TX) and 5* athlete Nyckoles Harbor (Arch Bishop Carrol, D.C.).

Conclusion:

The 2023 recruiting class has barely started taking shape and there is still a lot of time between now and Early Signing Day in December to make moves. Be ready for all teams to really hit the recruiting trail hard after the spring and into the summer for camp and 7 on 7 showcase season.

As always be sure to follow on Twitter @Sam_WaltonFB.

Ja’Tavion Sanders: Could We See A Position Change?

Ja’Tavion Sanders
Image via Getty Images//Tim Warner

Ja’Tavion Sanders was the most talented 2021 recruit Texas brought in according to all of the major recruiting websites. Listed as an athlete coming out of high school, there were questions if he would play on offense as a tight end/receiver or if he would play on defense as an edge-defender/pass-rusher. When he arrived at Texas Steve Sarkisian and the staff decided that his best fit would be at tight end.

Steve Sarkisian has said the tight end position is the most important position in his offense behind only quarterback. The reason being, tight ends are asked to do a multitude of things. They must block like an offensive tackle in the run-game and run routes like a slot receiver in the pass-game.

The tight end position had two entrenched starters going into the 2021 season. However, there was not any significant depth behind Cade Brewer and Jared Wiley. The 2021 recruiting class brought in Gunnar Helm (three-star) and Juan Davis (three-star), as well as Ja’Tavion Sanders to help inject more talent into the tight end room.

However, Ja’Tavion Sanders did not see the field in 2021 on offense or defense. With Cade Brewer graduating and Jared Wiley transferring to TCU, the tight end room was filled with unproven talent.

That was until Alabama tight end Jahleel Billingsley entered the transfer portal and decided to re-connect with his former coaches, Steve Sarkisian and Jeff Banks. With Jahleel Billingsley in Austin as the presumed starter, where does that leave ultra-talented athlete Ja’Tavion Sanders? Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s talk about it!

Ja’Tavion Sanders Fit In The Tight End Room

Ja’Tavion Sanders is still the most talented player in the tight end room probably. However, his limited experience as a blocker will hurt his chances at playing time. Gunner Helm has reportedly been very impressive as a blocker and continues to blossom as a pass-catcher. Jahleel Billingsley is a former four-star recruit with three seasons of college experience, including two seasons with Jeff Banks (Texas tight ends coach) and Steve Sarkisian.

With a player as talented as Sanders its going to be hard to keep him off of the football field. Even if Gunnar Helm provides a boost as a run-blocker or if Billingsley has a better knowledge of the offense, Sanders should see the field as a detached tight end, also known as a ‘big-slot’. I hinted at that usage in my Go-Go Offense article.

Sanders As A Playmaker

Ja’Tavion Sanders was close to un-guardable in high school. At Denton Ryan, Sanders accumulated 1,244 yards and 19 touchdowns his senior year. Putting up numbers like those at a premier high school like Denton Ryan are head turning. Which is why I use the term “playmaker” instead of tight end or wide receiver. He is a player you can line up anywhere and have success.

Sander’s best attribute as a receiver are his natural hands when catching the ball. Almost always catching the ball with his hands and being able to track deep balls down the football field is an instinct that not every football player has.

Ja’Tavion Sanders also has a great ability to gain yards after the catch. At 6’4″ and 256 pounds, Sanders moves incredibly well for his size. Using his strength and powerful lower body to run through would-be tacklers. He also has wiggle, juking and evade tackles altogether. His balance as a runner is what sets him apart though. When he does get hit, he keeps his balance and continues to run forward.

Sanders has the chance to improve as a blocker as well. At his size and with his background on defense, Sanders should be well-equipped to be a good blocker. The most important part as a blocker is having the willingness to throw your body around to benefit your teammates. If Sanders proves he can do that there is no reason why he shouldn’t be a regular in the Longhorns rotation and maybe even the starter at tight end.

Ja’Tavion Sanders Potential On Defense

At Denton Ryan, Sanders was more than just a dynamic playmaker on offense. He was also a disruptive force off the edge. Sanders tallied 17.5 sacks and 36 tackles for loss in his three seasons on varsity.

Although raw as a pass rusher, Sanders used his incredible athleticism to create havoc for opposing offenses. Constantly using a speed rush to beat offensive tackles around the corner for a sack.

Ja’Tavion Sanders would also use his athleticism to drop into coverage. He would slip away from the offensive tackle and snatch passes out of the air intended for a running back who had swung out as a check-down option.

Although Sanders doesn’t have a refined technique as a pass rusher at the moment, he still showed that he has a bull rush move in his toolbox. He also showed he can long arm offensive tackles and disengage from their grasp to help as a run defender. Sanders most impressive skill was his tackling ability. Consistently wrapping up ball carriers and stopping them in their tracks whenever he had the chance.

Overall, Sanders would have a spot on this defense as an outside linebacker. He would be able to use his athleticism to drop into coverage at times while still rushing the passer often. Being able to do both is beneficial for the defense, to keep the offense guessing where pressure will come from.

The Debate On Where To Play Sanders

After talking about Sanders qualities at both positions it’s clear he would likely be successful in both areas. His incredible athleticism and natural instincts as a football player are obvious.

On one hand, edge defender is a premium position. Rushing the quarterback and creating pressure is typically a defenses goal. Having an athlete off the edge of Ja’Tavion Sanders’ caliber is what most premier college football programs have.

As for Ja’Tavion Sanders, pass-rushers also have the second highest average salary in the NFL, only behind quarterbacks. Positional value matters in the draft as well. Last season six edge defenders went in the first around, compared to one tight end. This season there are a projected seven first round edge players, compared to zero tight ends.

On the other hand, Ja’Tavion Sanders already has spent a season in the tight end room. He has been developing with Jeff Banks and having him switch to the defensive side of the ball now would waste another year for him.

Although Texas is not short on playmakers with Bijan Robinson, Xavier Worthy, and incoming wide receiver Isaiah Neyor, Sanders breaking out would be a huge boost to this offense. Texas has to bounce back from the terrible 2021 season they had. Having Sanders as an immediate contributor would help with that bounce back.

Final Prediction

Ultimately, Ja’Tavion Sander’s year at tight end as a freshman points to him staying there for the 2022 season and beyond. As previously mentioned, moving Sanders to the defensive side of the ball this off-season would burn another year of eligibility for him while he learns his new position and assignments.

Steve Sarkisian and this staff are in a win-now mode. Sanders as a playmaking tight end is going to bring an immediate boost to this offense. Furthermore, to attract recruits in the transfer portal and in the 2023 class, Texas will have to show they can develop talent. Showcasing Ja’Tavion Sanders and his growth as a receiver and blocker would highlight this staff’s talent development.


Longhorn Nation should also be excited that @longhorns_atb has started a podcast! Find us on Apple podcasts and Spotify by typing in “Around The Horns” or follow this link. You can also find our episodes on YouTube! We go live every Monday 7pm EST, check out our latest one here.

Follow all of us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss anything: @ryanmcaloon@michalfarber_@tn_longhorn, & @sam_waltonFB

We also now have Around The Block — Longhorns merch! Check it all out here and support your favorite small business, us!

Key Defensive recruits for the Texas Longhorns in the 2023 cycle.

Introduction:

With the 2022 class wrapped up and the 2023 class starting to take shape. I am going to take a deep dive into the key 2023 defensive recruits. Just like in my offensive target breakdown I am going to choose one or two players for each position group to highlight. I will be linking film if I can find it and if not I will be linking their 24/7 Sports account.

Malik Muhammad Final 12 courtesy of Hayes Fawcett on Twitter

If you have not read my first article talking about the impact of the 2022 class on the 2023 class, start HERE. If you want to look into the 2023 offensive recruits, look HERE.

Defensive Line:

First up for the defense is David Hicks Jr. (Allen, TX). The 6’4″ 250 pound defensive linemen has fantastic speed and power that makes him difficult to handle on the line. He has a good frame that he could add mass to at the next level. His track background makes him very explosive off the ball, and his motor allows him to make plays downfield. He has fantastic awareness that allows him to read and make plays even when the ball isn’t coming his way. Hicks will probably move to the inside of the line when he makes the jump to college.

Closing out the defensive line is Ashton Porter (Cy-Ranch, TX). Porter is 6’3″ and 240 pounds and he uses his size to his advantage. He possesses great athleticism that allows him to get off of blocks quickly and great patience that allows him to always be ready to make a play. Porter’s speed and had usage will allow him to play anywhere on the line. Also, he is a guy that will probably play the edge and has the skillset to make an early impact if we land him. Be on the lookout for a verbal from him soon.

Linebacker:

At the linebacker position, Anthony Hill (Denton Ryan, TX). The 6’2″, 225 pound linebacker from Ryan Texas is the top rated linebacker in the nation. Besides his size, his vision and instinct gives him a clear advantage at the start of the play and his physicality and nose for the ball allows him to shut down offenses. He is very good in pass coverage as well, with speed to keep up with backs and tight ends. He has a very high ceiling with room to grow. Currently, Hill plays both inside and outside and has the versatility to play both at the next level. Furthermore, Hill is a guy that could come in and make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball.

5-star linebacker Anthony Hill Jr. – 2021 Highlights
Cornerbacks:

I’d like to start the cornerback targets off with one of the best in the class in Malik Muhammad (South Oak Cliff, TX). The 6’0″ 170 pound corner is fast and physical. I think he would be a great fit in Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense as he can play in both man and zone coverage successfully. Also, he is a great tackler and very good at getting through blocks to make plays. He also has great hands that allow him to go up and win 50/50 balls. Furthermore, Muhammad possesses the traits that lead to longevity at the position and has the frame to add mass at the next level.

Finally, I’d like to talk about five-star corner, Javien Toviano (Arlington Martin, TX). Javien is 6’0″ and 185 pounds and is one of the most versatile guys in the nation. He continuously makes plays in both man and zone coverage. Toviano has great speed and he always seems to meet the receiver as they are attempting to make the catch. As well as cornerback, Javien also plays running back, and is an electric kick and punt returner. Toviano has the makings to be the next big time Texas defensive back to make the league. Be on the lookout for Toviano’s recruitment to heat up throughout the summer!

Safeties:

This brings us to our final prospect, Jamel Johnson (Seguin, TX) is the first safety on our list. As the number nine safety in the class, Johnson has fantastic length and athleticism. His reaction time is off the charts which allows him to transition well in coverage. As well as zone, he excels in press coverage, using his height and length to his advantage. Finally, he has great play recognition skills and he seems to always find the ball in the run game as well. Jamel is a player that could play almost anywhere in coach P.K.’s defense and make a huge impact on the game. Since he has already committed to Texas be on the lookout for him to recruit other players over the next cycle.


As always be sure to follow us on Twitter here and check out our most recent episode of Around The Horns here. Also, check out our most recent articles below!

Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense And What It Means For Texas

Brennan Marion With Texas
Image via @TexasFootball on Twitter

The biggest addition schematically to this team will be Brennan Marion’s Go-Go offense. However, Steve Sarkisian made a few changes to this coaching staff after his first season as the Longhorns head coach. Bringing in Tashard Choice, the aforementioned Brennan Marion, and Gary Patterson.

First, Sarkisian brought in Tashard Choice as the runningbacks coach to replace Stan Drayton. Drayton left for the Temple head coaching job after the season.

Next, Sarkisian let wide receivers coach Andre Coleman go after a disappointing recruiting cycle. Sarkisian then brought in Brennan Marion to replace him, one of the rising stars among coaches. Bringing along with him a new and exciting style of offense that Sark and the offensive staff can learn from.

Finally, Sarkisian brought on Gary Patterson to become an analyst. With his job title being: “special assistant to the head coach”. You can find our thoughts about his hiring here. Today we will be focusing on Brennan Marion and his offensive scheme.

Why is Brennan Marion’s Go-Go offense such a big deal? What is so special about his hire and why should Longhorn Nation be excited? Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s get into it!

Brennan Marion’s History

To understand Brennan Marion’s Go-Go offense and Brennan Marion’s philosophy, it helps to understand where he came from. Knowing who taught him and where he established relationships will help us understand where he came up with the idea of this unique offense.

Brennan Marion’s Playing Career

Brennan Marion started his playing career at Foothill College, a community college in California. He then transferred to De Anza College, another community college in California for an expanded role as a receiver.

After a break out year at De Anza College, Marion would transfer to the University of Tulsa. While at Tulsa, Marion would meet the head coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Who would both play a crucial role in getting Marion into coaching after his playing career.

Brennan Marion’s Coaching Career

Brennan Marion worked his way up at a remarkably fast pace. Becoming the head coach at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School in 2013 at the age of 26. He would continue to bounce around and rise up the ranks until he caught his first big break.

In 2017 as Howard University’s (D1-FCS) offensive coordinator, Marion’s Go-Go offense helped propel the Bison to a win over 45-point favorites UNLV. Marion would stay at Howard University one more season before taking his Go-Go offense to William & Mary (D1-FCS) as their offensive coordinator.

Coach Marion would continue his rise and become the wide receivers coach for the University of Hawaii and Todd Graham for the 2020 season. Before again jumping to a better opportunity and landing at the University of Pittsburgh, where he again was the wide receivers coach.

There, Coach Marion would help Jordan Addison tally 107 touches for 1,649 yards and 18 touchdowns. Addison would also win the 2021 Biletnikoff trophy, awarded to the best wide receiver in the nation.

Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense

We mentioned the Go-Go offense before, but what exactly is so special about this offense? The Go-Go offense is based out of a two running back set— 20 or 21 personnel (2 running backs and 0 tight ends or 2 running backs and 1 tight end, respectively).

Unlike most 20 and 21 personnel teams, Marion’s offense does not use a fullback to block and a halfback to run, both running backs have the opportunity to block or get the ball.

Brennan Marion’s philosophy is to be a power run team that utilizes RPO’s (run/pass option plays) in the short passing game and stretches the defense down the field with a vertical passing game. Let’s break it all down below, step by step.

The Origin of the Go-Go Offense

The Origin of the Go-Go offense is from Brennan Marion, he created this scheme from nothing. However, the inspiration of the offense comes from Marion’s interest in triple-option teams and their ‘fool-proof’ methods of always being correct. Depending on what the defense was doing, the offense always had a counter to it built into the system.

Marion wanted to re-create that in the modern game. With another major influence coming from Gus Malzahn — who is known for his uptempo, spread/zone-read offense.

Malzahn used his athletic quarterbacks in zone read plays from spread formations often, putting three to four wide receivers on the field to stretch the defense thin before running the ball up the middle with his quarterback or running back. By going no-huddle, Malzahn would also force the defense to make quick decisions and adjustments without the luxury of getting substitutions.

Brennan Marion incorporates both of these philosophies in his own way.

By putting two true running backs on the field at the same time — who will be asked to be solid pass catchers and run blockers as well as great ball carriers — Marion keeps all of his options open as a play caller and also gives the quarterback options after the play begins with read-option and run/pass-option plays.

The Principles of the Go-Go Offense

The Go-Go offense has three basic principles from an outside view. Brennan Marion, I’m sure, has a much more elaborate explanation, but from what I’ve seen on film and from what I’ve learned through his coaching clinics and his book, there are three key attributes to this offense.

1.) Play With Selflessness

“How you play without the football determines how much you love your teammates”

— Brennan Marion, from his book “Go-Go Offense”

In the Go-Go offense, the star player will not always get the ball. That would defeat the purpose of having two running backs in the backfield. Similar to Phil Jackson’s famous “Triangle Offense” the ball should always go to the open man, while all of his teammates set him up for success in their own way.

If the defense is keying in on your superstar running back in the run game, the quarterback has to recognize it and get the ball to another playmaker or take it himself.

2.) Play Fast

“We want to play at an uptempo, two-minute pace at all times to create a ‘5th quarter’.”

— Brennan Marion, from his book “Go-Go Offense”

As the name would suggest, the Go-Go offense has to be fast paced. Creating an extra level of chaos for the defense. Thus giving the offense another upper-hand. By playing fast, Marion is also trying to give his offense more possessions.

Chip Kelly incorporates a similar strategy. Kelly also brought it to the NFL and it had some success, but it is a very popular strategy in college football to this day.

3.) Create Mismatches With Exotic Formations

“We want to stay multiple in our formations, to get favorable matchups and run our same plays”

— Brennan Marion, from his book “Go-Go Offense”

Giving the defense different formations than they are accustomed to seeing week-in and week-out creates yet another form of confusion for a defense. Moreover, creating that potential confusion causes mismatches and potential miscommunication.

Using different formations yet running the same plays also helps the offense. Instead of learning a multitude of plays to keep defenses guessing, the offense can learn less plays and run them out of these ‘exotic’ formations.

Go-Go Offense Formations

The way Brennan Marion aligns his running backs is also unique. While drawing inspiration from triple-option teams, Marion wanted to also keep his offense modern. By keeping his quarterback in shotgun while still pulling formations from triple-option style formations, Marion has seemingly found a modern twist to these historic formations.

Marion’s FAR/NEAR Formation

Typically putting his running backs side-by-side in a “FAR/NEAR” formation, commonly used in triple option offenses.

FAR formation is when the two running backs are on the opposite side of the formation as the tight end or slot receiver. Conversely, NEAR formation is when the two running backs are on the same side of the formation as the tight end or slot receiver.

Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense
Here is a visual of Brennan Marion’s FAR formation in 20 personnel
Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense
Here is a visual of Brennan Marion’s NEAR formation in 21 personnel

FAR and NEAR aren’t the only unique formations Coach Marion uses, but they are the staple formation of this offense.

Marion’s STACK Right/Left Formation

Brennan Marion also utilizes a “STACK” formation, either STACK right or STACK left. The STACK formation also has roots in triple option offenses.

Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense
Here is a visual of Brennan Marion’s STACK Right formation in 21 personnel
Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense
Here is a visual of Brennan Marion’s STACK Left formation in 20 personnel

Advantages To These Formations

There are many advantages to having both running backs on the same side of the formation. One of them being very simple, to give the defense a different look than they are accustomed to.

Another advantage is on every run or play action play, there are potentially two ball carriers to worry about. The quarterback will pivot to the side of the running backs and hand the ball off or keep it, leaving the defense with three legit possibilities of who actually has the football.

Typically on a play-action play, defenses will recognize the ball carrier doesn’t have the ball or that the quarterback has kept it, with two ball carriers on the same side going the same way defenses have to account for both ball carriers and the quarterback incase it is a delay handoff to the second running back.

That extra hesitation could be all the offense needs to get a man open down the field. Putting pressure on the defense to not allow the big play while also forcing them to stop the run.

The biggest advantage to having two running backs on the same side of the formation, however, is that it forces the defense to play in an ‘un-balanced’ formation.

Forcing the defense to ‘overload’ a side gives the offense an advantage when running the ball to the weak-side of the formation. However, if the defense stays in a balanced formation, now the offense has a numbers advantage to the strong side of the formation.

Go-Go Offense Running Concepts

Coach Marion has said he can run any running play from his staple FAR/NEAR formations. That is extremely valuable, for the sake of not tipping your plays to the defense pre-snap.

Out of FAR formation, Brennan Marion and William & Mary run a counter run play. As you can see, the running back closest to the quarterback has the responsibility to seal the edge defender on the backside of the play.

*To avoid any copyright issues, diagrams will be used for plays instead of actual footage. Although you can find the play at the 36:00 mark, here.*

Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense
Here is a visual depiction of all the offenses assignments on a counter run play in a 21 personnel FAR formation.
Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense
Here is a visual depiction of the play after the handoff.

Another example of Brennan Marion running out of these unique formations comes in the same William & Mary game. Again, the running back who isn’t getting the ball has an important task to seal the defensive end. Stopping him from making a huge play in the backfield on the backside.

*To avoid any copyright issues, diagrams will be used for plays instead of actual footage. Although you can find the play at the 1:47:25 mark, here.*

Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense
Here is a visual depiction of all the offenses assignments on a power run play in a 21 personnel STACK Left formation.
Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense
Here is a visual depiction of the play after the handoff.

The creativity in Brennan Marion’s run blocking scheme with the running backs is actually nothing new. However, rarely do teams ask their primary running backs to block and seal the backside as if they were a fullback or tight end.

This slight nuance causes the defense to hesitate, giving the offensive line an advantage. With the defense hesitating, the offensive line gains an extra step, moving the line of scrimmage up.

The Longhorns Go-Go Package

Now that we understand what makes the Go-Go offense special, what does it mean for Steve Sarkisian and this Texas offense? How could a Longhorns-version of this Go-Go package look?

Having Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson on the field at the same time should be the top priority for Sarkisian. The running back position is incredibly deep for the Longhorns. With talents such as Keilan Robinson, Jonathon Brooks, and Jaydon Blue also vying for touches.

Getting as many of these playmakers on the field at the same time while keeping the defense guessing what they are going to do would be a huge advantage for this offense. Let’s take a look at a few possible formations the Longhorns could use with inspiration from the Go-Go offense.

Longhorns Go-Go Package
Visual depiction of 20 personnel in NEAR Formation

Having both running backs on the same side of the offense creates unbalance for the defense, as we mentioned earlier. This is beneficial in the run game but also helps in the passing game.
Having four of your playmakers on the same side of the formation creates an isolation on the other side. This forces the defense to either roll their coverage toward your biggest threat (in this case, #8 Xavier Worthy) or roll their coverage toward your four other playmakers.

If the defense chooses to roll towards Xavier Worthy, the quarterback can recognize that post-snap and throw a quick swing pass to one of the running backs, basically creating a toss-run play where the running back has three blockers against three or four defenders. A situation Steve Sarkisian and staff would feel very good about with Bijan or Roschon carrying the ball.

However, if the defense decides to roll the coverage towards the four playmakers they will be leaving their cornerback one-on-one with Xavier Worthy. That is a matchup Steve Sarkisian would love to have ten times out of ten.

Mix & Matching Different Playmakers

Longhorns Go-Go Package
Visual depiction of 21 personnel in STACK Right formation

Steve Sarkisian may also opt to give Isaiah Neyor (#18) the isolation in these type of formations. Neyor averaged 20 yards per reception at the University of Wyoming in 2021. Sarkisian may want to use his deep threat ability as a way to ‘open up’ the field for the running game. Forcing defenses to choose whether to roll coverages his way or not would exasperate defensive coaches.

Longhorns Go-Go Package
Visual depiction of 21 personnel in FAR formation

Having Keilan Robinson and Bijan on the field at the same time presents a significant problem for defenses. Both are exceptional pass-catchers and will create mismatches in the passing game. Keilan’s break-away speed was on display in 2021 and we could see more of it with more two running back sets.

Longhorns Go-Go Package
Visual depiction of 21 personnel in STACK Left formation

As you can tell, we have mixed in Roschon Johnson, Keilan Robinson, Jahleel Billingsley, Ja’Tavion Sanders, Isaiah Neyor, and Jordan Whittington into these formations. All provide different attributes that can be utilized at different times. Two notable players that were not included were Gunner Helm and Troy Omerie. They are two other players who will see playing time in 2022, perhaps significant playing time if they continue to develop.

Steve Sarkisian can mix and match these playmakers in a multitude of ways. As mentioned above, Bijan Robinson and Keilan Robinson are two exceptional pass catchers and would be a mismatch against every linebacker in coverage. Jordan Whittington is a former running back and could absolutely be moved around and into the backfield at times.

Steve Sarkisian’s Deviation To The Go-Go Offense

A slight variation from the ‘pure’ Go-Go offense to the potential Longhorns package would be the quarterback position. Brennan Marion used his quarterbacks in the run game often when he was the offensive coordinator for William & Mary.

Steve Sarkisian does not like to use his quarterbacks in the run game. Sarkisian would much rather create option plays using run/pass options. Instead of using the traditional speed-option or read-option plays that require the quarterback to be a threat as a runner.

This Longhorns Go-Go package will most likely be brought on slowly. However, it has significant advantages to it and presents defenses with problems they aren’t accustomed to solving. Getting the best five playmakers on the field at the same time should be the goal for Sarkisian and this offensive staff. Two running back sets allow for that to happen.

The biggest challenge for Steve Sarkisian and this coaching staff will be to persuade these players to buy-in. This is an offense that demands selflessness, as we’ve talked about earlier.

Asking star running backs like Bijan Robinson and Jaydon Blue to block a defensive end or linebacker at times will not be easy. Not that I doubt they will give it their best, but it’s unquestionably a change to how they have played football their entire lives. However, with the locker room and coaching staff that is now in place, the culture will promote selflessness and team success.

Closing

Brennan Marion is on the fast track to a Power-Five offensive coordinator position. The Longhorns will not be able to keep him for more than a season or two, especially if Sarkisian incorporates the Go-Go package effectively early on.

Sarkisian will have to be an open book and learn about Brennan Marion’s offense and his philosophies as much as he can before Marion out grows his role as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach.

Overall, Brennan Marion is one of the brightest young minds in football and Texas is lucky to have him in the building. Not only is his scheme new and exciting, but the energy he brings as a coach and a recruiter is on full-display already on his Instagram: @brennan_coach.


Longhorn Nation should also be excited that @longhorns_atb has started a podcast! Find us on Apple podcasts and Spotify by typing in “Around The Horns” or follow this link. You can also find our episodes on YouTube! We go live every Monday 7pm EST, check out our latest one here.

Follow all of us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss anything: @ryanmcaloon, @michalfarber_, @tn_longhorn, & @sam_waltonFB

We also now have Around The Block — Longhorns merch! Check it all out here and support your favorite small business, us!

Texas Longhorns Adding Another Big-Time Staff Member?

Adding former head coaches as analysts/assistants has become a common practice for Nick Saban at Alabama. Now, Steve Sarkisian is following in the footsteps of his former boss by going out and bringing in former big name head coaches to the Texas Longhorns staff. Who is he trying to bring in this time around? Find out below!

David Cutcliffe possibly joining the Texas Longhorns staff

David Cutcliffe

David Cutcliffe is the former head coach of Ole Miss and Duke. Cutcliffe took over an abysmal Duke program and turned them into a contender in the ACC Coastal for several years. Cutcliffe is also a well know and well-respected coach around the country. He is most notably known for his development of the quarterback position.

Who are some of the biggest quarterbacks he has coached? Well, that’s an easy one. Cutcliffe coached and developed both Peyton Manning and Eli Manning. Peyton Manning as we all know is considered a top 5 quarterback in NFL history, and Eli Manning completed an 18-year Hall of Fame career in New York only 3 short seasons ago.

David Cutcliffe Texas Longhorns Staff

Now, you may be thinking to yourself why would Sark want to hire a 67-year-old coach who mutually parted way with Duke a year ago. Well, Cutcliffe has a couple things that Sark really wants.

#1. Experience

Cutcliffe has been coaching football for a very long time. He has coached at the collegiate level for almost 40 years. I don’t know about you, but for me 40 years is almost double my age. Sark having that experience in his ear constantly is something I think he desperately wants.

One thing I have noticed about the current staff is that they’re relatively young. That is not always a bad thing, but it is also not always a good thing. Being able to have that blend of experience and young up and comers is something I think Sarkisian is trying to address with the addition of Gary Patterson and possibly David Cutcliffe.

#2. Relationship With The Mannings

Cutcliffe was Peyton’s OC/QB coach at the University of Tennessee, and he was Eli’s HC at Ole Miss. However, their relationship goes deeper than being coached by Cutcliffe for a few years. David Cutcliffe was also Peyton and Eli’s QB coach during the offseason while the 2 brothers played in the NFL. I found this short clip from YouTube that should give you a better understanding of their relationship. You can watch the 3-minute clip here.

Arch Manning Texas Longhorns

By now I hope you have put 2 and 2 together. The #1 overall player in the 2023 recruiting class (via 247 Sports) is Arch Manning, nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning. If Sarkisian is able to add Cutcliffe to this staff in any capacity that would immediately give the Texas Longhorns a leg up in the Arch Manning sweepstakes. With Quinn Ewers already on campus that would give Arch a season to sit behind Ewers and learn the offense before becoming the starter for the 2024 season.

In Closing

David Cutcliffe is a phenomenal coach and has a long track record of developing NFL quarterbacks. If Sark is able to add Cutcliffe to the staff it would only add to an already impressive off season for the Texas Longhorns. The smoke is starting to grow around Cutcliffe, but as we saw with Gary Patterson the timeline for a decision won’t be rushed.

As always be sure to follow us on Twitter here and check out our most recent episode of Around The Horns here. Also, check out our most recent articles below!

Key offensive recruits for the Texas Longhorns in the 2023 cycle

and

Breaking: Texas Longhorns Land Another 5-Star Offensive Lineman