Alabama WR transfer Tyler Harrell could be what Texas football needs

As we near the closure of the current window on the NCAA transfer portal, we give Texas football just a few days to find new players before the Spring Ball. Newcomers to the transfer portal are allowed in the current 45-day window until January 18 (next Wednesday).

One of the biggest need positions for head coach Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns this portal cycle is a wide receiver. And considering Texas hasn’t added any recipients from the portal in Class of 2023 yet, it looks like there’s still work to be done for those staffers at the position.

One name that popped up on the portal this weekend that could bring some intrigue to the table for Sark and the Longhorns is former Louisville Cardinals and Alabama Crimson Tide redshirt wide receiver Tyler Harrell. After spending just one season in Tuscaloosa playing for wide receiver coach Holmon Wiggins and head coach Nick Saban, Harrell decided to put his name on the portal for the second time in as many years.

Harrell announced on social media on Jan. 14 that he was “officially on the transfer portal.”

When Harrell first arrived on campus in Alabama last year, there was a lot of hype surrounding his inclusion on the Tide offensive. The 6-foot, 195-pound wideout brings plenty of speed to the table and was an established major threat in Louisville thanks to his 2021 breakout campaign.

Texas football could have a strong WR option in the portal with former Alabama and Louisville speedster Tyler Harrell

Harrell was reportedly clocked with a 40-yard dash time of under 4.25 seconds a couple off-seasons ago.

And he capitalized on that speed during his only fully healthy season in college so far in 2021, where he led the nation in yards per catch (29.6). Harrell was also very prolific in the deep-passing game a few seasons ago.

He was among the top five wideouts in the ACC in 2021 in yards by catch per reception on deep balls and touchdowns, and he led the ACC in average target depth on deep balls.

Harrell wasn’t just a threat on deep ball, however. He was a fairly explosive weapon that Louisville could use to launch the ball into space in several different parts of the field. Harrell led the ACC in yards after catches per reception and missed tackles forced per catch on intermediate goals in 2021.

However, Harrell wasn’t able to make the same impact on the Alabama offense last season as he did in Louisville in 2021. Nagging foot injuries limited him to just two goals over half a dozen games that season. He couldn’t make his season debut in Alabama until Week 8 against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The same nagging injury would keep Harrell on the sidelines for much of the rest of the season, even after making his Alabama debut in Week 8.

However, if Harrell is healthy and ready for the 2023 campaign, he will be one of the most explosive and elusive weapons at the wide receiver position to appear in the portal this offseason. That’s why he catches my eye as a possible target in Texas.

Considering how fast and elusive Harrell is in space, he’s a potential passer for Sark’s offensive in Texas. Harrell can give Sark and the Longhorns another legitimate deep-ball threat that could serve as an insurance policy if rising junior wideout Xavier Worthy is still struggling at this stage of the game in 2023.

Harrell is also a wideout that Sark can use in a variety of ways to get him the ball into space. During his time in Louisville, he has shown that he can be effective when set up as a de facto X-wide receiver (94 percent of his snaps in Louisville were wide out at this point) or when he comes out of the slot.

Working between numbers was something Harrell was very effective at in 2021. He averaged an insane 28.3 yards after catch per reception on intermediate targets between numbers during the 2021 campaign.

Harrell can also be moved around before the snap to act as a decoy to make room for another skill type since he draws so much attention from enemy defenses. As long as you give him some time and space to find some daylight, it doesn’t matter where on the field you get his hands on the ball.

The ability to miss defenders in the open field and the big game threat could also mean Harrell is a major threat in jet sweeps and screen play.

Texas needs to add a big playmaker at the wide receiver position to truly ensure this group is effective next season. Harrell would give the Longhorns the right playmaker who could take some attention and pressure away from Worthy and rising junior tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, among others.

Of all the wide receivers currently available on the portal, I think Harrell could make the most sense for the Longhorns before that transfer window closes in a few days.

One factor that could change the dynamic of what the Longhorns expect from the portal at Wideout could be the decision Sark makes to replace Brennan Marion as WR coach. If Texas hired someone like Wiggins outside of Alabama, that could be a possible connection Harrell could draw to the Forty Acres while that relationship is still solid.

Texas finished last season with a record of 8-5 (6-3 Big 12) after a 27-20 loss at the Alamo Bowl to the No. 12 Washington Huskies on Dec. 29.

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