With the move towards an up-tempo offense based on play quantity, the Texas Longhorns must find additional production at wide receiver in 2013 beyond the team’s two stalwarts in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley. A cast of characters will compete for playing time as fall practice kicks off and any number of scenarios are possible due to positional changes which took place in spring practice and the arrival of some talented newcomers in the 2013 recruiting class.
For David Ash to get over the hump this fall and become one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12, if not the country, the impetus cannot just rest on Davis and Shipley to carry the load without help.
“Magic” Mike Davis has shown flashes of brilliance during his three years on the Forty Acres that supported his high-profile status as a recruit coming out of one of the state’s talent-laden programs at Dallas Carter. At other times, Davis has also disappeared for long stretches, becoming invisible at the worst possible times.
In 2013, Mike Davis must be an every-game No.1 receiver for Texas to have a chance at establishing balance with the potent running game. Davis’ best performance in 2012 came in a 31-22 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders where he hauled in four receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Davis’ decision to return to Texas for his senior season was met with some surprise by those who believed he would move on to the NFL. It’s the hope of those close to the Texas program, and intimated by Davis himself, that his reason for return was there was more left to prove. If Davis can deliver on his promise to prove this, it could be a very positive sign for the new look Longhorn offense.
The second trusted target for David Ash is rising senior wideout Jaxon Shipley. The younger brother of former Texas star and NFL journeyman, Jordan Shipley, Jaxon has shown the ability to be a game-breaker given the right conditions. At a minimum, he has the unit’s best hands, and is without a doubt the best possession receiver on the Texas roster. He is the wideout Ash will turn to time and again in crucial situations.
Shipley is certain to see additional looks in 2013 as a result of an increased number of plays run by the Texas offense overall. Explosive plays are at a premium in Texas’ evaluation metrics, and if Shipley can provide at least one a game of the four total the Longhorns have as a goal, Major Applewhite and the offensive staff will be pleased to say the least.
In fact, this could be the season we see Jordan Shipley breakout and become Texas No.1 wideout and an NFL prospect in his own right.
There are four other receivers who, between them, will battle for additional playing time this season: sophomores Cayleb Jones, Kendall Sanders, and Marcus Johnson and junior Bryant Jackson. Of these four, Jackson was the most productive in 2013, catching eight passes for 125 yards in limited action.
Jones was a five-star recruit our of Austin High School two years ago who, in spite of some off-field troubles earlier this year, has first-tier ability and outstanding hands that could make a difference in spot action and certain situations. Jackson and Jones, at least on paper, should be fighting for the nominal No. 3 wideout spot in a Texas offense that will often use four wideouts in spread sets.
Between them, Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson were used little in 2012 and are likely to be buried on the depth chart behind Davis, Shipley, Jones and Jackson. In four-wide sets, however, each could see a few snaps in 2013.
Two incoming freshmen Jacorey Warrick and Jake Oliver, could also battle with Sanders and Johnson for these final roles, and with strong fall performances, could possibly break into the rotation in limited use.
To put it lightly, the Texas wide receiving corps must have it’s best season as a unit for the Longhorns to have any chance at winning a Big 12 Championship and making a return trip to BCS bowl game in 2013.
Kris is also featured in the print publication, Lindy’s In the Huddle – Texas Edition which hits stores on July 16th.