Short-handed Texas receivers to test their depth against Baylor's stout secondary
Is Jordan Whittington done playing football this season?
That's a question many Texas fans have been asking since the third-year receiver suffered a broken collarbone earlier this month. Whittington himself is also looking for an answer, it seems. While speaking on his recent YouTube show, Whittington wasn't ready to either rule out or guarantee a return.
If he does make it back, though, it won't happen Saturday at Baylor. That leaves Texas without a receiver whose 24 receptions still rank second on the team.
Texas has two tried-and-true targets in Xavier Worthy and Joshua Moore. Worthy is only two games removed from a 261-yard performance against Oklahoma that has been bested by only one receiver in UT history. Moore scored the decisive points in four of the Longhorns' seven wins last season.
But the absence of Whittington will continue to test the depth in the Texas receiving corps.
"Numbers are going to get called a little differently, obviously, from where we began the year to where we are now," Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. "Opportunity is going to be there."
Four-star receivers Brenen Thompson and Armani Winfield have committed to the Longhorns' 2022 recruiting class. Five-star dynamo Evan Stewart also remains a top target for Texas. But those reinforcements won't be available until next year.
Texas has 16 receivers on its roster. In addition to Whittington, both Troy Omeire and Jaden Alexis are out for the season as well. Five receivers originally joined the program as walk-ons, and senior Montrell Estell has more career interceptions (one) than receptions (none). Casey Cain, a freshman, and 2020 signee Dajon Harrison, who opted out of last season, have yet to run a route of significance.
Marcus Washington, however, is a somewhat seasoned option. As is Kelvontay Dixon.
Washington has started four times before and is in line to get first-team reps this weekend. Two weeks ago against Oklahoma State, his 58-yard catch set up a field goal.
A redshirt freshman out of Carthage, Dixon has recorded six collegiate catches. His only touchdown at Texas so far was a 73-yard score in the 2020 Alamo Bowl.
On Tuesday, running back Roschon Johnson said Dixon and Cain had stepped up in practices since Whittington's injury. UT cornerback Josh Thompson also expressed confidence in the backup receivers.
"Those guys, they give fanatical effort every time that they get on the line of scrimmage," Thompson said. "It starts with the 1s. If the 1s are going hard, the 2s are going hard. If the 2s are going hard, then the 3rd are going hard. It's just a level that everyone has taken."
Between the two of them, Worthy and Moore have caught 46 passes this season. The rest of UT's available receivers have been responsible for eight.
On Monday, Sarkisian stressed a need for more consistency among his receivers. He assessed that, "We're a little hit and miss, we're a little up and down." He said that inconsistency was reflective of a passing game that threw for five touchdowns against Texas Tech and Oklahoma but also has been held under 200 yards on four occasions.
"It's like what are we doing that we do well that we can continue on," Sarkisian asked. "What are the things that they do well to make sure that they're in the right position to do it, especially some guys that haven't been playing as much that we're going to be counting on here in the second half of the season."
Without Whittington, Texas will look to test a Baylor secondary allowing nearly 200 passing yards per game. The Bears have yielded six touchdowns through the air but also have intercepted eight passes. The only 100-yard receiving games ceded by the Bears have belonged to BYU's Puka Nacua (168) and Oklahoma State's Tay Martin (110).
Collin Johnson, who had 132 yards in 2018, and Armanti Foreman, who had 142 in 2016, are the only UT receivers who exceeded 100 receiving yards in the last eight meetings between the two schools. In the Longhorns' 27-16 win last year, Tarik Black led all receivers with the 72 yards he picked up on one second-quarter catch.
Texas at 18-Baylor, 11 a.m., ABC, 104.9