Texas Football: 3 players that benefit most from the Paul Chryst hire

CJ Baxter Jr., Texas football (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
CJ Baxter Jr., Texas football (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Hayden Conner, Texas football
Hayden Conner, Texas football /

Texas football and head coach Steve Sarkisian were able to make a fantastic hire this spring by bringing in the former Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst as a special assistant to the head coach. Chryst is joining Texas’ staff as one of three new additions among the special assistants to the head coach.

The other two hires that Sark and the Longhorns made to the staff this offseason among the special assistants are the longtime college defensive coach Payam Saadat and veteran NFL special teams coach/coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

Chryst will essentially be serving as an offensive analyst on Texas’ staff, helping offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Kyle Flood with the ground game and blocking schemes.

Meanwhile, Saadat will be assisting with the defense heading into the 2023 season. And DeCamillis will be assistant special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Jeff Banks with the special teams unit.

I’ve said it before, but Sark is clearly leaving no stone unturned with these three solid special assistant hires that he’s made so far this offseason. But the biggest of the bunch so far is clearly the addition of Chryst to the staff.

Texas football players that the hire of Paul Chryst could have the biggest impact on

Here’s a look at three players that will benefit most from the addition of Chryst to the staff as a special assistant ahead of the 2023 season.

Hayden Conner, IOL

The way that Chryst is able to find different ways to utilize pulling guards and scheme up different blocking looks along the interior offensive line to open up running lanes in the ground game should benefit multiple Longhorns players next season. But the interior offensive line is where I think the addition of Chryst could make an impact the most among all the offensive linemen.

Texas struggled at times last season to set the tone on the ground along the interior offensive line. The offensive tackles (Kelvin Banks Jr. and Christian Jones) did their job to set the edge for the outside zone. But there were times when defenders were able to get into the backfield up the middle, limiting what could have otherwise been big plays last season for the likes of Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson.

One interior offensive lineman that could really benefit from some additional development and scheme versatility is junior interior offensive lineman Hayden Conner. The most veteran of the bunch among the Texas offensive guards this year, Conner is looking for a breakout season this fall.

Conner has that big frame at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds that Chryst and Flood love to boast along the interior offensive line. It’s also worth noting that Chryst and the Badgers offered Conner during his recruitment out of Katy (TX) Taylor High School.

There was clearly something that Chryst and the Badgers saw in Conner, as was one of the guard targets they were prioritizing in the 2021 class. Wisconsin was one of the early Power Five offers that Conner got just before his sophomore year at Katy Taylor. Conner also visited Wisconsin multiple times before committing to Texas in July 2019.

The combination of the familiarity that Chryst will have with Conner’s skill set and how he could add to his game up front is pretty intriguing in terms of the impact he could have on the junior IOL, in particular.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing to see Conner have a bit of a bounce back to start the 2023 campaign after he had a rocky finish to last season. He allowed a career-high four quarterback pressures in the Alamo Bowl and graded out in the bottom half in run blocking among Big 12 offensive guards in the last four games of the campaign.

All told Conner has looked the part at times over the last few seasons in terms of his ability to be a real anchor that can set the tone for the interior offensive line. He also showed the ability to be an effective pulling guard as a run blocker on multiple plays last season.

Showing the ability to be a rock along the interior offensive line on a consistent basis will be the next step in terms of Conner’s growth heading into next season.

And I think given the aforementioned ability of Chryst to potentially help add to Conner’s scheme versatility at offensive guard could be huge. That is, of course, assuming that Flood and the Longhorns don’t move Conner to center permanently this fall after he got some reps at that spot with the second team during spring ball.