With fall camp rapidly approaching, BON is taking a look at the storylines surrounding each position entering the 2012 season. After talking about the quarterbacks on Tuesday and the running backs on Wednesday, it's time to talk about the wide receivers.
Departures: Darius White, Chris Jones
Malcontent White left the program in the middle of December, but not before trashing Texas to super blue Dorial Green-Beckham. While still on the team! A near-beatdown from Demarco Cobbs almost ensued before Cobbs was, apparently, restrained by teammates. I'm not entirely sure why, because being punched in the face seems like a fitting response for such a heinous crime.
And was it a coincidence that Mike Davis "had some personal things come up" during the 2011 season? Personal things. Like perhaps the fact that his roommate, White, had a terrible attitude (this is me putting that as nicely as I can).
White's now at Missouri, wearing no. 8 (so he can be twice the player he was at Texas). Will that happen? Well, uh, he still likes to tweet about how happy he is when he's done with football for the summer. So, yeah.
Ugh. I feel dirty now. Like I need to wash my hands.
At least Chris Jones wasn't a punk prior to his departure, so he's got that going for him as he gets ready to start a year at Navarro College. He took a visit to Houston after he left Texas and there weren't any rumors of grade issues, so the guess here is that he simply wanted to go the JUCO route to have a few more options for his final two seasons of eligibility.
*Click the names for the Recruiting Spotlight for each respective player.
During his sophomore and junior seasons, Jones was considered one of the top prospects in his entire class at receiver, but the lack of a true quarterback his senior year, poor testing at The Opening, the fact he didn't exactly light the other top national events on fire, and due to some general exposure fatigue, the buzz surrounding Jones wasn't nearly as positive as it was the night that I left House Park in August 2010 pretty high on Jones following a game against Belton:
As with his performance at the spring game, coming away from House Park, there was no question that Jones is the elite talent he is made out to be and though he could stand to add some strength and improve his speed, it's his fluidity, flypaper hands, and strong leaping ability/body control that makes him a top prospect and an absolutely elite wide receiver. The Real Deal. The Truth. All of that.
After all, that night Jones made two one-handed grabs that are still as good as I have seen from a high school player. My video of them, despite being pretty grainy (it was taken from my digital camera) has nearly 50,000 views. I'll be hard pressed to put another video on there that will draw that many.
The major issue is whether he can create separation at the next level -- his ball skills are elite, but his straight-line speed is not.
The buzz is more positive about Sanders and Johnson. For the latter, a big-time senior season help land his firmly on the radar (63 catches for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as adding 352 rushing yards on 30 rushes and a touchdown). A dedication to his craft has earned him some buzz early this summer. Like Jones, Johnson has remarkable body control -- some of his film included more sideline tough grabs than I've ever seen from any other high school receiver. A niche superlative, but a superlative nonetheless.
Sanders did everything for Athens during his career there and after losing some weight due to an illness late in the season, he blew up to around 190 pounds or so, then dropped back down to 183, as he was carrying a bit of extra muscle in his upper body that probably wasn't helping his explosiveness, his best asset.
Want to know something about Sanders' work ethic? Instead of taking some time off prior to the start of fall camp, he's been working with a trainer in Dallas, former Sooner wideout David Robinson, who sees Sanders as a first- or second-round talent when he leaves Texas, if he can polish his route-running. The Athens product reportedly ran a 4.34 40 while working with Sanders, in case anyone was wondering about his speed. Dude wants to get better -- a good sign that he will under the tutelage of Darrell Wyatt, who is good at what he does.
Starters: When the 2015 season rolls around, there will be no more Shipleys in burnt orange until the next round, if there is one (I hope so). it will be a sad day. Until then, fortunately, Longhorn fans will be able to avail themselves of three more seasons of Jaxon Shipley, the most versatile offensive player on the team.
Can he catch it? Check. He's as sure-handed as they come. Can he run it? He was good enough to earn carries on the jet sweep and was also the triggerman in a triple option Wildcat look prior to his knee injury that derailed his season after it happened during the Kansas game. Can he throw it? How about jokes about him being the best passer on the team after going 4-for-4 with three touchdowns and a game-clinching play against BYU in 2011. In the spring, he showed the intelligence to pull the ball down on designed passe to pick up substantial yardage on a play in the open practice and one in the spring game.
A significant increase in his 44 catches for 607 yards in the air should be in store with a healthy season. Man, I love me some Shipleys.
For junior Mike Davis, his sophomore season could only be categorized as a disappointment. He managed to lead the team in receiving with 45 catches for 609 yards and but a single touchdown, a hallow achievement given the time missed by Shipley. Besides only recording that lone touchdown, Davis went quiet in the late part of the season, failing to record a catch of more than 20 yards in the final five games and not a single reception in the Holiday Bowl win over Cal.
As a freshman, Davis made two more catches and scored two touchdowns, despite missing time with a knee injury. There was some questions whether he would even with the Longhorns in the spring, but he seemed to re-dedicate himself and the reports were all positive from the early practices, though he failed to make a catch in the spring game.
He did, however, show some effort blocking in the run game for the first time in his career. The upside of this group will rest to a great extent with Davis and how he answers the question of being able to fulfill his potential, which has tantalized at times, but hasn't yet come to fruition.
The final wide receiver in the starting group is long jump star Marquise Goodwin, who came up a bit short in the finals at the Olympics, but still has two national NCAA outdoor titles under his belt. He'll also have nearly an entire fall camp of his senior year after missing the entirety of it last season and not deciding to play until before the BYU game.
It took him some time to acclimate, as 23 of his 33 catches, as well as his single touchdown, came after October, while Davis faded into the woodwork. Given the opportunity to actually prepare for the season, Goodwin is another player who should be able to key an improved Texas passing game, in addition to some spot carries in the edge rushing game after gaining 20 or more yards on four of his 22 carries in 2011.
Depth: When the Longhorns want a better edge presence in the blocking game, sophomore John Harris will be the guy. Recall, as well, that he threw a touchdown pass in the Rice game before going down with a foot injury in September destroyed the rest of his season. Before moving to quarterback as a senior, Harris made a lot of plays as a junior making defenders miss on hitches, so he's a strong candidate to be a big-bodied possession guy.
Beyond Harris, there's really only senior DeSean Hales, a strong Gaskamp Award candidate who has always performed well during the spring, but never translated it to the field in the fall, for reasons that are essentially unknown. There's also sophomore Bryant Jackson, a former defensive back who made the move over to receiver last year when numbers got tight. However, Jackson did suffered a foot injury that limited him during the spring, though he should return for fall practice. At this point, he looks like depth and little more.
Recruiting: If the Longhorns aren't able to secure another commitment from Ricky Seals-Jones, it would be hard to feel completely positive about a group that currently includes Dallas Jesuit's Jake Oliver and Cypress Falls' Jacorey Warrick.
All three were at The Opening and though Penn State commit Christian Hackenburg had some issues getting RSJ the ball at times, he looked to these eyes like a guy who could play some at receiver, even at 240 pounds. His ball skills are there and though he needs to work on attack the football every time, it isn't fair to classify him as a body catcher. In addition, he's also extremely physical with defensive backs. If he gets to 250, well, he's probably going to have to end up at tight end. Note: he could be good on defense, but why take the ball out of his hands? Why?
At this point, Texas is in good shape with RSJ, though he has expressed a desire to play in a more high-powered passing attack like Texas A&M. How the Longhorn passing game develops this season could impact his eventual decision. And if the Aggie passing game can take off in the first year under new coach Kevin Sumlin.
Oliver wasn't a big-time factor at The Opening, though it didn't help that he had to sit out the second day with a concussion. His best moments were probably when he was able to use double moves, but on one play when he tried to flat outrun Ohio State commit Cameron Burroughs, it didn't work so well. But he's an excellent blocker, a good route runner, and strong in the air. There's a reason he had a ton of offers.
As for Warrick, he was a bit similar in that he was hardly a star among stars amid the best prospects in the country. In terms of prospects in the state of Texas, though, his suddenness is as good as anyone I saw this summer and when pads are on, he's at his best making defenders miss in space, whether on speed sweeps, screens, or other short passes. In that sense, he helps make up for the loss of Dontre Wilson to Oregon because of his versatility with those edge plays.
The Longhorns also have an early 2014 pledge from Abilene Cooper wide receiver Lorenzo Joe. If you haven't read about Joe, do so here and here. Relieve your unfortunate ignorance. Go ahead, the final part of the preview will still be here.
What to watch for in fall camp: Can Mike Davis continue the positive buzz from spring practice, even though he didn't have a catch in the Orange-White game? Jaxon Shipley will be Jaxon Shipley. How quickly does Marquise Goodwin get back into football shape after the Olympics, and can he build on a strong end to the 2011 season?
Can the freshmen contribute? If so, where and how? Jones could emerge as a guy that David Ash likes in the redzone if they can connect on the type of aerial plays that Ash was on the sideline to see during that 66-63 barnburner in 2010. Sanders could receive a specialty package of plays to take advantage of his speed.
So, Texas fans, what are your thoughts/concerns with the receiving corps. Make y'all's voices heard! We don't typically bite hard around here. Except trolls. Trolls get bitten. I give myself a little rabies booster for them.