The last time Texas Football produced a 12-game winning season was 2009 under the leadership of Coach Mack Brown and quarterback Colt McCoy. That year many comprising the 2023 Texas roster were barely in grade school. It was a year millions of Americans struggled from the greatest recession since the Great Depression, Captain Sullenberger landed a plane on the Hudson River, Bitcoin was first used as a currency, Barack Obama took his first Presidential Oath of Office and Texas A&M was still in the Big 12.
Then #2 Texas led an undefeated regular season suffering their only loss to #1 Alabama in the National Championship Game in which Longhorn fans painfully recall was upended by a sidelining injury to McCoy in the first quarter. That season McCoy threw for 3,521 passing yards, Jordan Shipley led the team in receiving with 1,485 yards and running back Tre’ Newton rushed for a team season high 552. By 2010, McCoy and Shipley had departed for the NFL, Newton declined to continue his career after multiple injuries, Garrett Gilbert assumed QB1 and the program ended with a 5-7 record despite a 20-13 upset of No. 5 Nebraska in Lincoln.
While #3 Texas’ winningest season since 2009 ended in a near historic comeback in their first appearance in the College Football Playoff versus undefeated #2 Washington, the Sugar Bowl outcome wasn’t the climbing program’s defining moment. The 2023 season instead reflects immense and methodical progress made since Steve Sarkisian accepted the head coaching position at The University of Texas and the promise of years ahead.
2023 also marked the first year Texas has won the Big 12 Championship since 2009. Quarterback Quinn Ewers was named the conference title game’s Most Outstanding Player and passed for a total 3,479 yards this year, while the trio of wide receivers, Xavier Worthy, Adonai Mitchell, and Jordan Whittington snagged 1,014, 845 and 682 total yards for the season, respectively. On the ground, sophomore Jonathan Brooks rushed for 1,139 yards in ten games before his season-ending injury, and freshman running back CJ Baxter and sophomore Jaydon Blue nearly seamlessly filled the shoes of the injured Brooks producing 680 and 407 total yards, respectively.
The 2024 team makeup will change with natural loss of senior leaders like Jordan Whittington (WR) and the 2023 Outland Trophy Winner and Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, T’Vondre Sweat (DL). Moreover, Longhorns like junior Byron Murphy (DL), junior Ja’Tavion Sanders (TE) – who contributed 682 receiving yards this season – junior Worthy and sophomore Brooks have already announced their intentions to enter the NFL draft. It is still unclear if playmakers such as junior Mitchell and Jaylan Ford (LB) will remain but the NFL declaration deadline is January 15.
Quarterback Quinn Ewers has signaled intentions to stay and consequently risen as a 2024 Heisman favorite alongside Alabama’s Jalen Milroe (QB). One injury away from Texas QB1 is heralded redshirt freshman, Arch Manning. The well-oiled running game along with rising stars such as sophomore Justice Finkley (Edge) and true freshman Anthony Hill Jr. (LB) should be suited up in Burnt Orange coupled with the nation’s #3 recruiting class to kickoff 2024.
The foray into the SEC will present its own challenges with a schedule packed with top team opponents such as #1 Michigan in Ann Arbor, #6 Georgia at DKR, and the annual Red River Rivalry where now #12 Oklahoma delivered the Longhorns only regular season loss this year. However, under the stewardship of Coach Sarkisian who has been named a finalist to three awards for Coach of the Year and in only three seasons led the Longhorns to 12-2, and the talented compilation of coaches he has assembled, the future for Texas looks bright.