Brennan Eagles beat a Louisiana Tech defender on Saturday night and just kept on running.
Having just converted a post route into a second-quarter touchdown, Texas’ sophomore wide receiver turned around and sprinted back toward the line of scrimmage. On his way, there was senior center Zach Shackelford, who was all set to thrust Eagles skyward in celebration.
But Eagles, who’s 6-4 and 225 pounds, was making a beeline to Shackelford.
“Honestly, when he ran at me on Saturday, I was like, ‘Dude, you need to slow down,'” Shackelford recalled on Tuesday. “He was full head of steam. I gave him the hands down and was like, calm down there.”
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The touchdown catch was the first of Eagles’ college career. He later added a 25-yard score in the third quarter of UT’s 45-14 win. (Junior Angilau, a 300-pound guard, was tasked with the celebratory lift on that play). Eagles finished with three receptions for 59 yards. After the game, Longhorns head coach Tom Herman described Eagles as a player who has “made the most strides.” His season-opening effort also drew praises from teammates.
“That’s just a sneak peak of Brennan Eagles this season for this UT offense,” exclaimed senior Collin Johnson.
“Brennan, the sky’s the limit for him,” said fellow receiver Devin Duvernay.
The one person who possibly wasn’t impressed with Eagles’ performance? The man himself. When asked if he had made a statement, Eagles said no.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything yet,” Eagles said.
Because of a dress code violation by Johnson, Eagles actually started last year’s season opener at Maryland in his first game as a Longhorn. He was even targeted on the first snap. Most of the work given to UT’s outside receivers, however, went to Johnson and Duvernay. Eagles appeared in 11 games, but recorded only one catch last season, a 35-yard gain.
A four-star recruit out of Alief Taylor, Eagles was hardly the first freshman receiver not to make too much noise. Only four Texas freshmen have had 40 catches their first season. Neither Johnson nor Duvernay got to 30 in their first years.
“It’s frustrating at times, but you have to understand the game and understand the process,” Eagles said. “It’s (about) consuming all of the techniques and things from older guys.”
Eagles spent much of his freshmen season studying UT’s veteran receivers. This year, he has a locker right next to quarterback Sam Ehlinger. That means he’s often quizzed about routes and offensive checks from his quarterback.
“(He’s) very accepting and open to learning with a confidence that he knows that he can get the job done,” Ehlinger said. “He knows the gifts and the abilities that he has, but he’s also open to learning everything and open to critique and things like that.”
The emergence of Eagles, who played last week despite having elbow surgery earlier in fall camp, has given Texas another weapon in its receiving corps. He’s competing for reps at the Z receiver position with John Burt, a fifth-year senior with 58 career catches. The X receivers for Texas — Johnson and Malcolm Epps — are both 6-6 targets. Duvernay caught nine passes from the slot in the opener. He’s backed up by freshman Jake Smith.
This week, the Longhorns will battle a LSU secondary that ranked 38th last year against the pass. In 2018, Tigers safety Grant Delpit was an All-American while cornerback Kristian Fulton allowed a total of just six first-down catches. Starting across the field from Fulton will be freshman Derek Stingley Jr., who was a five-star signee.