The outlook for Texas football and head coach Steve Sarkisian way too early for the 2024 season is very optimistic. Texas is coming off a Big 12 Championship and the program's first appearance in the College Football Playoff during the 2023 season.
In his third year with the program, Sarkisian led the Longhorns to their first 12-win season and conference championship since 2009. Texas is ahead of schedule in many ways, despite the already high expectations the Longhorns faced entering last season.
Which starters will Texas football have the most difficult time replacing in 2024?
The expectations will be even higher for the Longhorns entering the first year in the SEC in 2024. Texas is already being picked among the top five teams in the way-too-early rankings from the major media outlets for the 2024 season.
The return of key players on both sides of the ball such as redshirt sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers, senior DB Jahdae Barron, and senior DL Alfred Collins have many expecting Texas to be a contender in the SEC immediately this upcoming season.
But the Longhorns also lost many key players that will be difficult to replace regarding their production and leadership in the locker room this year. Texas does have the talent to reload at some key positions.
It's good for the Longhorns to be developing talent at a much higher level for the NFL Draft than in year's past. Texas will likely have multiple Day 1 and Day 2 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft the Horns had a player selected in the first round in 2023, snapping a nearly-decade-long first-round pick drought for the program.
Developing these NFL-caliber talents is a good sign of where the program is at and where it's trending for the future. But these losses will still be difficult for the staff to replace in 2024. Here are three of the most difficult players for the Longhorns to replace from the 2023 team in the SEC this upcoming season.
T'Vondre Sweat, DL
It goes without saying that the highest-graded defensive tackle in the nation will be difficult for any team to replace. The difficulty of replacing this caliber of a defensive tackle, such as redshirt senior T'Vondre Sweat, is taken up a notch, considering Texas is entering the first year of competition in the SEC this year.
Sweat was a wall for the Texas defensive front last season. He was an immovable force in run defense who stymied every ground game he faced in the Big 12 this season (and really any team the Longhorns faced).
He was one of the biggest reasons why the Longhorns had the No. 3 rushing defense in the nation. For his efforts last season, Sweat won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman. He was also rightfully named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2023.
There were even some that had Sweat inching into the top 10 in some Heisman conversations late last season. For a defensive tackle in the Big 12 to be included in any sort of Heisman discussion just goes to show how incredible Sweat was.
Moreover, the defensive linemen for the Longhorns who are set to be the next in line after the departure of Texas's top two defensive tackles are Collins and fellow rising super senior Vernon Broughton. This is why it was so critical for the Longhorns to get Collins and Broughton back in 2024.
These two have developed at a high rate for Texas, and were key contributors in the defensive line rotation in the last couple of years. Their time to shine will come in the SEC in 2024 as they will be the most experienced and proven defensive tackles on the team.