No need to sugarcoat it, 2021 was a bad season for Texas. 5-7. The six-game losing streak. Quarterback uncertainty. It was all uphill after October 9.
Despite the struggles in Steve Sarkisian’s first season, there were players who gave game effort every Saturday, even creating some highlights along the way.
As Inside Texas takes a look back at the 2021 season, it presents awards for most valuable player, offensive and defensive players of the year, and offensive and defensive newcomers of the year.
MVP, OPOY: Bijan Robinson
Stats: 195 carries, 1127 yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 26 receptions, 295 yards, 4 receiving touchdowns
Think about this season. Now think about this season without Bijan Robinson. Probably much worse, right?
Robinson was the focal point of the Texas “run first” offense under Sarkisian. He averaged 22 touches per game, including 20 carries per contest. He willed the Longhorns to victory over TCU, and even during the Texas losing streak strung together plenty of highlight plays.
Xavier Worthy put together one of the best seasons by a Longhorn wide receiver in school history, but so much of what he and other Longhorn receivers were able to accomplish on offense came as a result of the run game.
When opponents prepared for Texas, they primarily prepared for No. 5. This season would have been far, far worse without him, which is difficult to consider.
Robinson will be back for the 2022 season and will once again be the focal point of the Longhorn offense. It’s likely his final year in burnt orange before heading to the NFL. He’ll have the typical hype and attention surrounding the Longhorn football program’s best offensive player.
Also considered: Xavier Worthy
Defensive player of the year: Moro Ojomo
Stats: 29 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1 pass defended
Ojomo was one of two defensive players to start all 12 games. For a defense that struggled against nearly every opponent, Ojomo’s play on the defensive line was one of the few bright spots.
Whether he was deployed as an end in a three-man front or a tackle in a four-man front, Ojomo was the most consistent defensive lineman. He recorded a tackle in every game while playing in a scheme that typically asked him to hold up the progress of offensive linemen.
In addition, he was one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball. Once Josh Thompson, the midseason defensive player of the year, was lost due to injury, this race became a wide open one.
As Texas’ season carried on and the defense’s struggles were made apparent, there was one place — the defensive interior — where consistent effort was always found. Ojomo led those efforts, and as a result receives the top honors for a just barely top 100 defense.
Also considered: DeMarvion Overshown
Offensive newcomer of the year: Xavier Worthy
Stats: 63 receptions, 998 yards, 12 touchdowns
In his first season in Austin, Worthy has already put his name alongside those of Longhorn legends. There have been ten 1000-receiving yard seasons in Longhorn history. Worthy was two yards shy of recording the eleventh months after stepping on campus.
He eclipsed Roy Williams’ freshman record for yards and touchdowns, finishing one score short of Jordan Shipley’s school record for touchdowns in a season. He recorded the third game in school history with 200+ receiving yards, his 261-yard effort against Oklahoma (12 yards shy of the school record set by Shipley).
All in all, the likely freshman All-American has cemented his name as one of the best pass-catchers to wear burnt orange with at least two more seasons remaining in burnt orange.
His exploits earned him first-team conference and Big 12 offensive freshman of the year honors.
His previous relationship with Sarkisian is what led the Fresno native to Texas. Luckily for the Longhorn football program, that relationship could lead Worthy to further greatness.
Also considered: Keilan Robinson
Defensive newcomer of the year: Byron Murphy
Stats: 15 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks
On a defense ranked No. 99 in the country, there are few bright spots.
Byron Murphy was a bright spot. After drawing immense praise from his teammates throughout the course of the year, Murphy began to see more and more playing time as the year went on. That includes a start against the Kansas Jayhawks.
When he was on the field, his disruptive ability was on display. He showed grown-man strength while still just in his first college season.
It was a solid first season. Murphy expects more in his sophomore campaign.
Also considered: Ovie Oghoufo