Following a tough last-minute loss to the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas at the Texas State Fairgrounds on Oct. 7, Texas football heads into the bye week with a record of 5-1 (2-1 Big 12). Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian suffered their first loss of the season last weekend, giving the staff a lot of film to watch this week during the bye.
While Texas’ loss to Oklahoma last weekend set the tone for a rough bye week, there is still plenty to be excited about in the regular season’s second half. Sark and the Longhorns will likely be favored by significant margins in all the rest of their games during the regular season.
Pleasant surprises for Texas football in the first half of the regular season
If Texas wins out, it’ll likely still earn a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game in Arlington, TX, in early December. That could be a potential Red River rematch between Texas and Oklahoma in Arlington in a couple of months.
The bye week also allows us time to reflect on what went right for the Longhorns in the first half of the regular season. Here are four pleasant surprises from the first half of the regular season for the Longhorns.
Anthony Hill Jr., LB
The most impactful true freshman for the Longhorns in the first half of the regular season was the No. 1 rated linebacker recruit in the nation in the 2023 class, Anthony Hill Jr. The former Denton Ryan two-way stud Hill has made the impact expected from him and quite a bit more in the first half of the regular season.
Hill took near-starter-level reps on defense in the season’s first six games. He ranks third among Texas linebackers, getting 179 defensive snaps.
He’s made his presence known with productive snaps in the pass rush, run blocking, and coverage.
Hill exploded onto the scene with his pass-rushing ability in the huge Week 2 win on the road over the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide, with multiple sacks and tackles for loss. The multi-sack game against the Tide helped Hill amass three sacks, good for top three among Big 12 linebackers through Week 6.
In run defense, Hill has also made his presence known with a half-dozen run stops, three tackles for loss, and 14 tackles short of the first down. No other true freshman linebacker in the Big 12 this season has over five run stops, and just one missed tackle in run defense.
Hill has also held his own in pass coverage. This was expected to be an area of improvement for Hill early in his collegiate career, but he’s done well covering the flats and crossing routes this season. He’s allowed just 16 yards and four completions on five targets, with no touchdown catches in coverage in the first half of the regular season.
Texas’ top true freshman linebacker, Hill, is primed to continue to make a big impact on this defensive front in the second half of the regular season. He’s showing the potential to be one of the best linebackers in the Power Five in the next couple of years.