When you look at this list of top 10 returning players, saying the Texas Longhorns are back doesn’t seem that crazy. Steve Sarkisian’s staff brought in a ton of talent, and now they’re ready to ditch the brake pads in 2023.
Texas Longhorns Top 10 Returners in 2023
Analyzing the returning players at every school is a difficult task in the transfer portal area. As such, we’ve included transfer-portal athletes that were included on each team’s roster page to open fall camp in addition to the rostered players from last year.
1) Xavier Worthy, WR
We all saw the potential of what Xavier Worthy could do for the Texas Longhorns. His ability to separate from defenders frequently put him in positions to make huge plays, but it didn’t always end that way.
Overthrows and drops plagued the Longhorns last year, but hopefully, a year of trial and error corrects those mistakes. Worthy’s future is bright, and there aren’t too many receivers with his raw talent.
If he finds a way to become more consistent as a deep threat, Texas’ offense becomes a beast. What helps is the depth at the position, but also that Quinn Ewers returns after nearly a full year of experience.
2) Quinn Ewers, QB
Ewers plays a role in the above issues. Ball placement at times was all over the place, but it’s also easy to wonder how much better the season could have been if he didn’t get hurt. Sarkisian’s QB1 took control of the starting job in the spring, and it’s full speed ahead for an offense that should light up the scoreboard in 2023.
It’s not that the Texas Longhorns haven’t had talented offenses in the past, but the quarterback play has been all over the place at times. They haven’t had a passer like Ewers in a while either, and the Texas faithful have high hopes for this year thanks to his return.
3) Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE
While everyone gushes over Brock Bowers (and for good reason), there’s a guy in Austin, Texas, that will push him for the TE1 spot in the 2024 NFL Draft. Ja’Tavion Sanders got a ton of love for his pass-catching abilities last year, but momentum built this offseason for him as an overall tight end.
Wide receiver is a major strength for the Texas Longhorns’ offense, but Sanders gives them another elite pass-catcher. He’s a natural when running routes and hauling in passes, and he plays the game with an effort that gets him noticed on film.
It doesn’t matter if his teammate has the ball; he’ll run 40 yards downfield to block a defender. Pair that with his talent, and he’ll win over plenty of people in 2023.
4) Jaylan Ford, LB
A heat-seeking missile, Jaylan Ford sets the tone for the defense. After a year in which he was named First Team All-Big 12 with 119 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, and four interceptions, Ford’s looking to take this defense to another level.
It’s no secret that the offense receives most of the attention. That’s standard in college football now, but a good defense can make a big difference. Ford gives the Longhorns a playmaker and a leader at linebacker, and the staff hopes his energy transfers to the teammates around him on the field too.
5) Kelvin Banks Jr., OT
If you’re looking for someone who could make a huge leap as a prospect, Kelvin Banks Jr. is your guy. A freakish athlete, Banks puts some special plays on film with his athleticism.
The skill positions for the Texas Longhorns’ offense steal the spotlight, but Banks and the offensive line play a huge role too.
6) Johnathan Brooks, RB
Losing Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson put a major dent in the returning production at running back. Fortunately, Sarkisian returns plenty of talent to replace them. While no one can replicate what Robinson did in Austin, Brooks showed that he can be an electric playmaker running the ball.
It comes down to how close Brooks and the depth behind him can get to what Robinson did. In Sarkisian’s offense, he’ll get plenty of opportunities to run the football. Teams shouldn’t be able to load the box either, so there shouldn’t be too much of a struggle to find running lanes.
7) Jordan Whittington, WR
Arguably the most forgotten player on the Texas Longhorns’ roster, Jordan Whittington finally played a full season for Texas last year, and now he’s looking to post career numbers for the second year in a row.
With teams focusing their attention on Worthy and Sanders, Whittington should see more favorable matchups. The amount of talent on this offense isn’t fair, and Sarkisian’s a smart play-caller who will find ways to scheme guys open.
Whittington’s in a great position to have a big year, and teams could have nightmares about him gashing them because they get exposed trying to slow down the Longhorns’ other two threats.
8) Barryn Sorrell, DE
Texas did a solid job last year of disrupting opposing offenses. With the quality talent they’ve put on the field on the defensive line, it’s easy to see why. Barryn Sorrell gives this defense a dangerous presence on the edge, something they’ll need to win the Big 12 and beyond.
Sorrell had so much potential heading into the 2022 season. We saw glimpses of his potential in limited action in 2021, and he put together a solid season with 44 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. If he finds a way to increase that production, this defense becomes a menacing unit.
9) Jalen Catalon, S
I’ll start by admitting that this ranking heavily depends on Jalen Catalon staying healthy. He’s played just seven games in the last two seasons, but he’s a star when he can be on the field. We saw that in his freshman campaign back in 2020, and now he comes to Texas looking for a fresh start.
The Longhorns finished 90th in pass defense last year, so it’s safe to say some improvement is needed on the back end of the defense. Catalon has the ball and coverage skills to sweep over the top to make plays, and putting an improved secondary with a disruptive front seven puts Texas in the driver’s seat in the conference.
10) Adonai Mitchell, WR
Given the amount of talent at wide receiver, it won’t be a surprise if someone like Adonai Mitchell leads the team in receiving. He was already making incredible catches in the spring for his new team, and the Texas Longhorns’ passing attack appears as potent as ever.
A breakout season didn’t come to fruition in 2022, but a healthy Mitchell could do that this year. His performance in the national championship game two years ago showed that he has the ability to separate and make tough catches in contested situations.
That skill set fits well into an offense that’s going to gash plenty of teams this year.