Unlike his predecessor, new Texas assistant Charlie Williams is free to focus his efforts solely on coaching the team’s wide receivers.
That seems obvious for someone who was hired to the title of receivers coach, but Jay Norvell, who came before Williams, didn’t have that luxury in 2015 after he was summoned after one game to take over as play-caller. Instead of trying to steer Armanti Foreman out of his slump or figuring out what he had in DeAndre McNeal, Norvell was building game plans around Jerrod Heard’s legs and revamping the offense.
As could be expected, the rudderless receivers flopped and caught just seven touchdown passes. Combined with the tight ends, Texas’ pass-catchers totaled just 1,751 yards — more than 1,000 fewer than their opponents.
Tasked with squeezing more production out of this unit is Williams, a veteran coaching assistant who was looking for work after the Indianapolis Colts parted ways with him after last season. There is quantity with receivers accounting for 13 of the team’s estimated 85 scholarships. But is there quality to go with it?
- John Burt — Deep-play threat could get more opportunities in Sterlin Gilbert’s new offense. Appetite was whet with 65-yard TD in the spring game.
- Collin Johnson — Observers instantly fell in love with his physical gifts, but the 6 feet, 6-inch early-enrollee had only 15 yards receiving on four catches in the spring game. The finished product should be tantalizing, but it’s not there yet.
- Armanti Foreman — His talent is undeniable, but coaches question his attitude and work ethic. The hope is the light will come on now that his twin brother, D’Onta, is on the cusp of stardom at running back.
- Lorenzo Joe — Is Lorenzo Joe more than an Average Joe? The hour glass is half empty — or full — for the junior.
- Jacorey Warrick — Lone senior of group is perennial subject of offseason praise. Then he strangely goes silent.
- Ryan Newsome — Primary role is punt returner but should also be able to work into the mix at slot receiver.
- Dorian Leonard — Looks good getting off of the bus, but has only one reception in two years.
- DeAndre McNeal — Looks like a football player, but he doesn’t fit snugly into any one position. That’s why recruiting services pegged him as an athlete in 2015.
- Jake Oliver — Charlie Strong caught everyone off guard when he told reporters after the spring game that Oliver, a junior with zero career catches, was a veritable velcro during practices.
- Ty Templin — Former walk-on was injured for the spring game.
- Caleb Bluiett — One of just two senior starters on offense along with right tackle Kent Perkins.
- Andrew Beck — Matched Bluiett’s eight receptions in 2015.
- Garrett Gray — Too small for tight end (6-4, 214) but was lost in the shuffle at receiver.
- Blake Whiteley — Hasn’t been healthy since he stepped onto campus two years ago.
2016 freshmen: Johnson, of San Jose, headlines a four-receiver class that also includes Manvel’s Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, Temple’s Davion Curtis and Southlake Carroll’s Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Assuming none of the returners opt to transfer — and that’s a big if considering the logjam at the position — camp will open with 13 scholarship receivers. The newcomers will get ever opportunity to surpass the veterans for playing time. At tight end, Peyton Aucoin, who was basically a sixth offensive lineman at Brother Martin in New Orleans, is probably ticketed for a redshirt.
2015 review: It wasn’t pretty for the receivers, who combined for just seven touchdown catches in 12 games. Frankly, they didn’t get enough blame for the team’s inoperable passing attack, and instead, daggers were directed at the quarterbacks. Daje Johnson’s 37 receptions led the team, but that total is misleading as many of them came on glorified handoffs on speed sweeps. Only 10 teams threw for fewer yards than Texas, and that list includes run-dominated Georgia Tech, Air Force, Navy and Army.
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