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Eyes on Texas: Who’s worthy of praise and Steve Sarkisian’s trust? X marks the spot

Worthy poised to become best freshman WR in school history: ‘He’s wired the right way DNA-wise, that’s for sure’

You know who isn’t afraid of the sky-high expectations and pressure of playing at Texas? Freshman wide receiver Xavier Worthy.

“Me personally, I like Xavier Worthy,” running back Roschon Johnson said. In August! “He’s a guy that does pretty much everything he’s asked, and he does it to a T.”

Name someone who made a critical mistake and bounced back even stronger. It’s Worthy, who made a rather sizable freshman error against Oklahoma. He returned a kickoff out of the end zone, held the ball in the wrong arm and fumbled it away. 

In the Red River Rivalry, that might have mentally crushed some athletes. Worthy bounced back with a 31-yard touchdown catch and finished the day with 261 receiving yards, the second-best performance in school history.

“Just being around him, man, he’s a competitor,” fellow receiver Joshua Moore said afterward.

Who doesn’t care about Texas’ 4-4 record and still goes flying into November as the Big 12’s leading receiver? X marks the spot.

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Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy scores a 75-yard touchdown on the first play against Oklahoma. He leads all Big 12 receivers with 657 yards, which is also the highest total among all FBS-level freshmen. He’s averaging 19.9 yards on 33 receptions and has scored seven times.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian can’t win anything here without some cold-blooded ballers, players who refuse to falter in the fourth quarter. If that’s you, then please forward all Hudl video and transcript information to the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center.

“Sark really installing this, the mentality like no matter what the record is, you keep playing, you just keep doing you,” Worthy said this week. “So we just want to finish the season out strong.”

Bohls: Thompson, Worthy a Texas passing tandem worthy of high praise and expectations

Assuming he stays on track, Worthy will finish this season as the best freshman receiver in school history. The only question becomes how many records can he rewrite in three seasons? Players of this caliber don’t stay four years anymore.

Worthy leads all Big 12 receivers with 657 yards in eight games, which is also the highest total among all FBS-level freshmen. He’s averaging 19.9 yards on 33 receptions and has scored seven times.

“A lot of times freshmen come in and they like the flashy plays or they look at the depth chart and say, ‘I’m just going to wait my turn.’ I don’t think Xavier ever once felt that way or thought that way,”  Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said of star wide receiver Xavier Worthy.

Roy Williams holds the UT freshman record with 809 receiving yards. B.J. Johnson is second with 698 yards. Those two made an incredible duo as freshmen in 2000. Jaxon Shipley was previously third on the list with 607 yards.

Worthy has three 100-yard games so far. He needs at least two more to break above a wide swath of some of the best in school history in that category. Wane McGarity, Jordan Shipley and Devin Duvernay all had seven 100-yard games during a single season. 

“A lot of times freshmen come in and they like the flashy plays or they look at the depth chart and say, ‘I’m just going to wait my turn.’ I don’t think Xavier ever once felt that way or thought that way,” Sarkisian said last month.

“He’s never been an outspoken, boastful guy. He just wants to get back to work, and he wants to know how he can do it better,” the coach added.

Thus, Worthy earns the trust of the quarterbacks and the coaching staff.

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Worthy believes in himself and takes advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented, Sarkisian said.

“I don’t think the moment, at any time for him since showing up here on campus or in any game, is too big for him,” Sarkisian said. “That’s the sign of a really unique competitor. He’s wired the right way DNA-wise — that’s for sure.”

Texas' Xavier Worthy celebrates with fellow wide receiver Jordan Whittington after scoring against Oklahoma on Oct. 9. Worthy, who originally was supposed to be a Michigan Wolverine, has had a big impact on the Longhorns.

In sports, we love our comparisons. Oh, this player reminds us of that one. Or this guy has the body type of that one. Coaches hate player comparisons — the smart ones do anyway. Each athlete is unique.

Worthy grew up in Fresno, Calif., so he had not heard of Williams until just recently. 

“I don’t really know much about Roy,” Worthy said. “I know Texas great Marquise Goodwin. That’s what everybody compares me to.”

But is that even a correct comparison? Worthy ran track at Central East High School and had a personal-record 10.55 seconds in the 100-meter dash as a sophomore. That’s good, but nobody’s claimed Worthy is a world-class long jumper.

Worthy said he grew up wanting to be like DeSean Jackson, a 5-foot-10, 175-pounder now in his 14th season in the NFL. Jackson grew up in Long Beach, so it makes sense that a California kid would grow up idolizing another California player. It’s no different from Texas kids wanting to be Vince Young.

The UT receiving corps hasn’t had the best week. Moore and Marcus Washington have taken grief for key drops last week against Baylor. Worthy had four catches for 115 yards and scored on a 63-yard pass. When he scored, Worthy did a “Karate Kid” pose. “I just had watched it the night before,” he said.

Opponents are trying to limit his chances. He was targeted seven times, fewer than Washington (10) and Moore (11). It’s imperative that other receivers make plays to keep the defense honest. 

“All our receivers have a chance to get explosive plays,” Worthy said. “We have like certain plays, like crosses, we got deep routes, we got short routes, so Sark can be creative with his playbook.”

There’s no doubt who is a blossoming star, though.

Texas just needs more players Worthy of such praise.

“Anybody would want a guy like X on their team,” Moore said after the Oklahoma game. “He’s never out of it. He always wants more.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.

Saturday's game

Texas at Iowa State, 6:30 p.m., FS1, 104.9