The position group for Texas football that needs to show the most improvement on either side of the ball this coming season is the offensive line. Second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian and offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Kyle Flood struggled to find a solution that worked on a consistent basis in the trenches last season, which ultimately cost them in some games in a big way.
Offensive line play is going to be absolutely critical for Sark, Flood, and the Longhorns in 2022. They need to be able to protect the quarterback (regardless if it’s Hudson Card or Quinn Ewers starting this fall) and help establish the run early in games.
That is something that the Longhorns were largely not able to do on a consistent basis last fall. Texas had trouble protecting the quarterback whether the sophomore Card or redshirt junior Casey Thompson led the offense.
In fact, Texas was likely one of the two worst offensive lines in the Big 12 last season in terms of their ability to protect the passer. There was only one team in the Big 12 last season that allowed a higher pressure rate on the quarterback than the Longhorns, which was the Kansas State Wildcats. And both the Texas and Kansas State offensive lines were at fault for allowing pressure on the quarterback on roughly 13-14 percent of snaps.
Moreover, one of the problem areas for Texas along the offensive line last season was all the inexperience and youth among the regular starters. At least three of the regular starters along the offensive line last season were either inexperienced or just thoroughly inconsistent.
Among the regular starters along the offensive line in Big 12 play last season that fall into the inexperienced bucket were freshman offensive tackle Andrej Karic and freshman center Jake Majors. And those that commonly fell into the bucket of just thoroughly inconsistent were junior offensive guard Junior Angilau and senior offensive tackle Christian Jones.
Granted, it was uncharacteristic at times of Angilau to have such rocky production in pass protection.
Moreover, the good news for the offensive line heading into a critical 2022 campaign is the fact that a lot of the issues they experienced should get better over time if Flood can get more out of this group compared to last season. There will likely still be a good amount of youth along the offensive line (especially given the talent brought aboard in the 2022 recruiting class), but there is more skill and depth in the trenches this year.
If Flood and the Longhorns can get more out of the returning offensive linemen this fall, this group should be able to make some necessary strides compared to what we saw from them last season. And one big x-factor for Flood and the Longhorns to get the most out of the offensive line this coming season will be the returning starters such as Angilau and Majors.
Texas needs to at least have a few veteran offensive linemen with a good number of snaps under their belt to anchor this group in 2022. And that’s where the importance of Angilau and Majors comes into play.
These two were the highest-graded returning offensive linemen among the regular starters from last season. Both did experience their fair share of issues in pass protection last fall. But there is still ample reason to believe that Angilau and Majors will be good for the Longhorns in 2022.
As for as Angilau is concerned, we’ve seen him excel in run and pass blocking before. Last season was actually the worst in his collegiate career to date. That says a lot considering he was a regular starter for the Longhorns in each of the last three seasons.
If Angilau can return to the form we saw from him in 2019 and 2020, he should have a solid bounce-back campaign this fall.
And in terms of what the Longhorns can expect out of Majors, the trends that showed up down the stretch last season in terms of pass protection indicate that he could be finding his stride at this point of his career. Majors was rocky out of the gates last season in terms of run and pass blocking.
He was one of the two lowest-graded offensive linemen for the Longhorns in the first two weeks of last season. And it seemed like Majors hit rock bottom when he allowed a career-worst four quarterback pressures in Texas’ tough loss to Arkansas last year. That led to a pass-blocking grade south of 25, which was good to rank in the bottom five of the Power Five among all starting FBS offensive linemen in Week 2.
But Majors was able to make some ample improvements in pass protection after his rocky performance against Arkansas. In fact, he turned out to be one of the more effective centers in the Big 12 last season post-Week 2.
The x-factor for the Texas football offensive line in 2022 will be C Jake Majors
Majors would go on to register the second-best pass-blocking grade among Big 12 centers last season post-Week 2. He also didn’t allow a single sack and had a run-blocking grade that ranked among the top four centers in the Big 12 during that span.
Majors went from allowing roughly a half-dozen quarterback pressures and two QB hits in the first two weeks of the season, to allowing around a dozen pressures and just one QB hit in the last 10 games. In the first two weeks, he had an effectiveness rating in pass protection of 95.6 percent.
But then, he posted an effectiveness rating in pass protection of 98.3 percent in the final 10 games of the season. He was the most improved offensive lineman among the regular starters for Texas last season in terms of pass blocking grade in Big 12 play and effectiveness rating in pass protection.
Majors was clearly someone that started to hit his stride in pass blocking as last season moved along. And given the fact that he was a freshman and first-year starter at one of the toughest positions to play in the trenches (center), it makes sense that it took a bit of time for him to settle into this role.
In fact, you could argue that Majors was a little bit ahead of schedule at the end of last season compared to how a freshman center usually performs. That is evident when you compare Majors’ production with other freshman starting centers around the Power Five from last season.
Just to note, there were a little more than 15 freshman centers that got regular snaps in the FBS last fall. And there were around 10 freshman centers that got regular snaps on Power Five teams last season.
For instance, Majors’ 98.3 effectiveness rating post-Week 2 in pass protection was good for second-best among starting freshman centers in the Power Five last season. And his pass-blocking grade post-Week 2 was good for top three among Power Five freshman centers. His run blocking grade during that span was also good for top three among Power Five freshman centers.
Majors definitely showed some significant improvements across the board post-Week 2. He wasn’t necessarily the best freshman center in the entire country last season, but he was definitely better than most.
The strides that Majors showed down the stretch last season should carry into his sophomore campaign. And if he continues to progress the way he did in Big 12 play last year, he will assume the uber-important role of the anchor of the interior offensive line.
That is good news because Flood and the Longhorns need a consistently-strong presence to anchor the interior offensive line this fall. Texas needs a strong anchor at the center position to hold down the entire offensive line. That is a noticeable trend for the last few years for the Longhorns that strong center play is more important than just about any other position along the offensive line.
When Texas gets above-average production from the starting center, they tend to have an above-average season as a whole O-Line in pass protection compared to the rest of the Big 12. There is also a stronger correlation between the effectiveness rating of the center for the Longhorns in respect to the effectiveness rating of the entire offensive line compared to any other spot here.
That just goes to show how important it will be for Majors to continue his improved effectiveness in pass protection heading into the 2022 season.
Both Angilau and Majors are going to assume starting spots on the interior offensive line. And if they both make the necessary strides to improve this fall, they should help to form a much more formidable presence in the trenches compared to last season.
When you dive into the trends in offensive line production, it becomes much clearer as to why Majors is the most important starter in this group for the Longhorns in 2022. His production is a major x-factor for the Longhorns this fall, but there is ample reason to believe that he will continue to improve during his sophomore campaign.