Searching For Six -- The Wide Receiver Position Battle, Part II

The Wildcard

John Chiles – Garrett Gilbert’s commitment to Texas in February 2008 did more than secure the Longhorns’ quarterback position for years -- it also put the writing on the wall for John Chiles at the quarterback position. In essence, it was the beginning of the end. Though it took Chiles nearly a year to accept the necessity of his unavoidable move to receiver, he finally experienced his overdue epiphany the week before the start of spring practice, informing coaches that he was willing to move to receiver full time.

Unfortunately for Chiles, the receiving corps is the most crowded group on the roster, with 12 players competing for the six spots in the rotation. As described by Greg Davis, Chiles was in quarterback shape entering spring practice, but not in receiver shape, leading him to give up fast food and late-night snacks to lose weight and drop nearly 10 pounds since the start of spring practice, with the goal of losing another five or so.

His previous experience playing quarterback at Texas and receiver in high school has helped quicken the transition for Chiles, though he was not able to show off his progress during the Spring Game, as he did not have any passes thrown in his direction and Colt McCoy often did not even seem to look to Chiles’ side of the field at all. It may be that Chiles and McCoy need more time to develop chemistry during the summer. The most disappointing aspect of Chiles not catching any pases during the game was that he did not have an opportunity to support Greg Davis' assertion that Chiles can make opponents miss in the screen game, an ability that he did not show at quarterback or in the aborted Q Package.

There was some speculation early after the move that Chiles could use his redshirt season in an effort to distance himself from the other junior receivers (Collins, Kirkendoll, Webber, and Payne) and refine his receiving skills. Mack Brown, however, is increasing unwilling to allow players to redshirt who can contribute, making it extremely unlikely that Chiles would redshirt, especially given that he has impressed coaches at the new position. Currently, having received significant playing time with the first unit in the Spring Game, all signs point to Chiles being in the six-man receiving rotation in the fall.

Though he will have relatively little practice time to refine his receiving skills, his junior season will be a defining one for Chiles. Can he finally live up to the monumental expectations that accompanied him to the 40 Acres? One apt comparison might be Sergio Kindle, who struggled during his first two seasons out of position, then exploded onto the national scene with a spectacular sophomore season. Longhorn Nation asks you this, John Chiles: How would you like to define your legacy at Texas?

The Wait-Your-Turn Crew

DeSean Hales – "The Run" was perhaps the most recognizable highlight from the 2008 recruiting class, leaving Texas football fans drooling for the diminutive Hales and his big-play possibilities. After a redshirt freshman season, Hales is undoubtedly closer to contributing, though the rotation in front of him and his continued adjustment to running routes inside and across the middle suggests that he will see only limited playing time in 2009 as he remains outside of the six-man rotation.

Desean Hales 71 yard TD run vs Klein Forest 2007 (via sessamoid)

However, with so many potential blow outs in the early part of the season, Hales may see important reps on the field, most likely a situational look in the I formation, providing a threat coming in motion on the end around, a play the Longhorns showed repeatedly during the Spring Game.

The most likely scenario for Hales is that he plays a little in blowouts for his first two seasons before stepping into a starting role as a redshirt junior in the year after John Chiles, Brandon Collins, and James Kirkendoll graduate.

Brock Fitzhenry – Set back by a hamstring injury suffered late in spring practice, Fitzhenry missed the important opportunity to see the field in the Spring Game. In addition, the loss of reps from practice could keep him from seeing the field for another season.

Fitzhenry seemed likely to battle with DeSean Hales for playing time, but the word out of the program now is that Hales is playing in the slot, while Fitzhenry has been talked about at Jordan Shipley’s flanker position that receives the majority of screen passes in the Longhorn offense. His ability in the screen game will be the skill that gives Fitzhenry the best chance to see the field in 2009 and in the future.

DJ Monroe – For young receivers, repetitions are everything – necessary to develop a comfort level with the quarterback, develop route-running abilities, or learn to make tough catches in traffic. As a result, the time missed by Monroe this spring to focus on his academics will set him back significantly.

Whatever setback he experiences, though, will remain a secondary concern to that of his grades – if Monroe doesn’t turn his academic situation around this spring, he will never see the field at Texas and potentially waste his prodigious playmaking talent.

Greg Timmons – Most famous (infamous?) for his since-departed high-top fade, Timmons has the size to play in the controlled passing game Texas employs, but repetitions will be hard to come by in fall practice and Timmons did not enroll in the spring to get a head start at the position. Timmons probably won’t get a chance to see the field for any significant number of snaps until at least 2010, though it could be 2011 when he really gets a chance, after Brandon Collins and James Kirkendoll graduate. Most likely is that Timmons redshirts for a season before competing for Jordan Shipley's vacated spot in the rotation as a redshirt freshman.

The Don’t-Let-The-Door-Hit-You-On-The-Way-Out, Not-So-Dynamic Duo

Montre Webber – You will always have the Lightning Package from 2007. Why are you still here, again?

Phillip Payne – Good luck at your next stop. Texas needs your scholarship and you need a chance to play. Win-win.

It's likely that one or both of Payne and Webber will leave the program in the spring, though it's surprising that neither one left before the start of spring practice. It's clear that neither one will ever see the field for significant playing time at Texas and the Longhorns could use their scholarships.Good luck on your next stops, fellas.

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