Compared to the preseason expectations, head coach Steve Sarkisian and No. 8 Texas football lived up to the hype and then some in the first half of the 2023 regular season. Texas went 5-1 (2-1 Big 12), with wins over two ranked opponents. The only slip-up for Texas in the first half of the regular season was unfortunately a tough last-minute 34-30 loss to the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game in Dallas on Oct. 7.
Texas comes out of the bye week with control of its own destiny in its quest to make it to the Big 12 Championship Game with a potential Red River rematch against Oklahoma awaiting them. If the Longhorns win out in the second half of the regular season, a Red River rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game would be likely.
Freshmen bound to have big second halves of the season for Texas football
For the Longhorns to make it to the Big 12 Championship Game for the first time under Sark, Texas must continue to rely on its depth down the stretch. The Longhorns flexed their depth in multiple games, rotating players on both sides of the ball (especially on defense).
Here are three freshmen for the Longhorns bound to break out in the second half of the 2023 regular season.
Johntay Cook II, WR
The most talented true freshman wide receiver the Longhorns have this season is Johntay Cook II. But the former five-star wideout recruit out of DeSoto High School in Dallas didn’t get much of an opportunity to make an impact in live-game action in the first half of the regular season.
Sark said he would use a four or five-man rotation at wide receiver this season. Still, he’s mostly stuck with the starting trio of redshirt senior Jordan Whittington, junior Xavier Worthy, and junior Adonai Mitchell thus far. That left Cook and redshirt junior Isaiah Neyor on the sideline for much of the season’s first six games for the Longhorns.
While his reps were limited, good things happened when Cook was targeted in the first half of the regular season. Cook was targeted a half-dozen times this season, resulting in four catches for 103 receiving yards (over 25 yards per catch).
Texas has more opportunities down the stretch this season, against some weaker competition, to potentially get up early in games and get more freshmen playing time in the second half. When Texas faces the Houston Cougars on the road this weekend, Cook is the true freshman who could change things up for Sark’s offense to get a couple of big plays downfield in the passing game.
It’s noteworthy that Sark said “he was kicking himself after the game” in Red River for not playing Cook more snaps on offense. That indicates that he could prioritize getting Cook more live-game reps on offense in the regular season’s second half.