Practice has begun. The season opener is on the horizon. Football is back.
To preview Texas’ impending season, we’re spending part of August by asking 20 burning questions in 20 days.
Today’s question, which will be handled by columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden and beat writers Brian Davis and Ryan Autullo:
No. 15: What should Texas do with that third receiver spot?
We (think we) know two of the starters — senior Jaxon Shipley (56-589-1 last year) and Marcus Johnson (22-350-2). Kendall Sanders, who started last year, and Montrel Meander, one of the bright spots of the spring game, have been kicked off the team.
That leaves junior Daje Johnson (the dangerous running back/receiver who’s also in Charlie Strong’s doghouse), senior John Harris, untested sophomore Jacorey Warrick, and true/redshirt freshmen Jake Oliver, Roderick Bernard, Armanti Foreman, Garrett Gray, Lorenzo Joe and Dorian Leonard.
BOHLS: GO WITH YOUTH.
“Ideally, it should go to the suspended Daje Johnson, who has the most speed of anyone on the team, but also enough off-the-field challenges that threaten his long-term position on the roster. But the guess is he might not be reliable enough, so receivers coach Les Koenning should look hard at his freshmen and try to plug one in like Foreman or Joe. Both are physical receivers who are catching on fast.”
GOLDEN: DAJE JOHNSON — IF.
“Daje Johnson is the best athlete at Strong’s disposal, a playmaker who can change a game’s momentum in a matter of seconds. But he must use his brain in smarter fashion if he’s going to remain on the roster. That means finding his way out of Strong’s dog house.
“If Johnson can’t do it, it’ll come down to a couple of freshmen in Joe and Foreman. Harris has had four years to make a dent in the receiving corps and hasn’t broken through, so I’m thinking the Horns will go with one of the young bucks if Daje goes Dajenerate.”
DAVIS: NO. 3? WHAT ABOUT 1 AND 2?
“Third receiver? How about the first and second? Right now, you can’t establish anything with this position group that’s seen its supposed top playmaker suspended (Daje Johnson) and second-best threat go down with a hamstring injury (Shipley). Marcus Johnson had a huge bandage across his nose on the first day of practice, and it’s believed to be a non-football issue. Sanders and Meander are gone after their arrests. Who’s left?
“Well, time to look at the freshmen.
“Joe and Foreman both looked good in the short time the media has been allowed to watch practice. Both come in with solid credentials. Right now, your guess is as good as any on which receiver will rise to the top.”
AUTULLO: DAJE JOHNSON — IF.
“The third spot should belong to the troubled Daje Johnson if he’s truly committed to earning it.
“Johnson, who carries the rare distinction of having spent time in the dog houses of both Strong and Mack Brown, is suspended for at least the opener against North Texas. With his fast-twitched legs on the sideline, it’s hard telling whom will emerge to complement Shipley and Marcus Johnson in Week 1.
“Strong mentioned Warrick as a candidate. Harris could also get a look, but he’ll also get snaps at tight end. Foreman, a true freshman, impressed members of the media on Monday with his blend of speed, power and soft hands. Strong thinks a freshman can ‘easily’ make an early impact at a skill position because ‘it’s all about speed and athletic ability.’
“Strong wants to find a home run threat at receiver, someone capable of turning a 5-yard hitch into a big gain. Johnson, a junior with five career plays of 45 yards or more, could be that guy. Get him on the field, get his mind right, and this debate is solved rather easily.”
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