Texas is stacked at wide receiver. Just stacked.
The Longhorns have deep threats. They’ve got big targets with incredible size, players so tall that Charlie Strong may have to ward off Shaka Smart. Strong landed one of the fastest wide receivers in the country just two months ago. He’s got physical specimens everywhere he looks.
John Burt can stretch the field like few others. With 6-foot-3 Burt, 6-6 Collin Johnson, and 6-4 Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and Dorian Leonard, Texas could help Smart’s frontcourt depth. Well, maybe not. Strong joked after his football team’s first workout of preseason camp Saturday that he “wasted an entire day of recruiting” by going to one of Humphrey’s basketball games, only to see him score two points.
In huge prize Devin Duvernay, Texas swiped a Baylor signee who won the 100-meter state championship in 10.27 seconds and could become the Usain Bolt of Big 12 receivers. He’s muscular, polished and sure-handed and should supplant senior Jacorey Warrick for the critical inside receiver position. True freshman Davion Curtis, a middle schooler at Temple when new Longhorns offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert was the head coach there, knows Gilbert’s offensive system and is also in that mix at slot receiver.
And don’t discount personal favorite Lorenzo Joe, who made a name for himself by scoring Texas’ only touchdown in that 50-7 massacre at TCU. He’s got the frame and the hands to carve out a role for himself.
Then there’s dreadlocked junior Armanti Foreman, who’s desperate to become known for something besides being the brother of UT running back power D’Onta Foreman, as well as Leonard and promising freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and veteran Jake Oliver. None of these are that proven, however.
But the question is can anybody get them the ball?
That will loom until freshman Shane Buechele or senior Tyrone Swoopes grabs the starting quarterback job. Neither looked that impressive Saturday as poorly thrown balls were on the ground far too often, something Strong conceded. Third-stringer Jerrod Heard inexplicably showed up with gloves on both hands, but Warrick explained the handwear: “Jerrod’s a character. He might show up wearing nothing tomorrow.”
Somebody better show up behind center and fast. Only the fate of the season and Strong’s future rest upon it, although first impressions indicate Strong is well-situated at running back (sophomore Kirk Johnson and freshman Kyle Porter look fast and shifty behind Foreman and Chris Warren III), offensive line and receiver.
After a season in which Texas ranked 118th nationally in passing and had no receiver total more than Burt’s 457 yards, the Longhorns are primed with a lot of explosive weapons. Last year Texas receivers produced just two 100-yard games: Burt’s vs. Kansas and Daje Johnson’s against Rice.
Warrick sees an offense with more vertical passes and more option routes. Asked to elaborate, he said: “In the past, we were looking at only one side of the field. Now everybody is a viable option.”
Options are good.
It’s not inconceivable that Gilbert could come up with a 1,000-yard receiver, the first since John Harris’ spectacular 2014 season, which broke a string of four consecutive years without a receiver that productive. But no one should bet on a pair of 1,000-yard receivers, as Mack Brown had with the Quan Cosby-Jordan Shipley tandem in 2008.
“Let me say this,” new receiver coach Charlie Williams said of cultivating a 1,000-yard man, “our strategy is to win. But with as many opportunities as we should have, there should be a great chance to do that.”
The talent’s there.
Williams wants Burt to become more versatile and catch more immediate passes. Strong said he sees Burt and Collin Johnson as “two deep threats.” That said, Johnson could also be a possession receiver along with Duvernay and Warrick,— to move the chains. Williams called Duvernay “a very smart player who picks up the offense real quickly.”
So has Johnson, who opened eyes in spring drills, only to disappoint in the final game. Williams said he was “a little shaky after being lights out in practice. He was disappointed in himself because there were a couple of plays he could have made.”
There should be plenty more chances for that, especially given how deep the receiving corps appears.
“The team as a whole,” Warrick said, “we look nice.”