It's not often the guy returning as your leading receiver and one of the best deep threats in the country as a junior ends up having a contract year as a senior. However, Mike Davis has a few things working against him as he decided to forego early entry to the NFL Draft and return for a senior year.
The first is a bit of an image problem, where he's viewed as an enigmatic and inconsistent weapon prone to dropping even the easiest of passes. The second is the environmental pressure. From Roy Williams to Limas Sweed, from Quan Cosby to Jordan Shipley, Texas featured dominant wide receivers in highly productive offenses for the better portion of the last decade. However, when Mike Davis arrived in Austin in 2010 as a highly coveted prospect, the wide receiver talent evaporated as the offenses struggled to produce.
Mike Davis arrived as a top-five wide receiver prospect out of Dallas Skyline, headlining a large wide receiver class, with fellow highly touted prospect Darius White, as well as John Harris, Chris Jones, and Darius Terrell. Davis and White were billed as a talented pair of complementary prospects: Davis a sharp route runner that could work defenses in the slot, and White the dominant physical talent on the outside.
Despite the difficulties of the 2010 offense, as well as a midseason ankle injury that would slow his production, Davis went on to set the freshman season reception mark. Davis was poised to be the leader of a better 2011 receiving corps at the disposal of new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. But the revolving door at quarterback and the locker room poison/roommate influence of Darius White would lead Davis into a strong sophomore slump that had Davis questioning whether or not he'd return to Texas.
In 2012, the issues that plagued Davis as a sophomore rectified themselves. White would transfer to Missouri, and Davis found renewed focus and energy in the spring, going so far as to promote his full name, MIke Magic Davis. The quarterback position solidified itself as Ash would rise and take hold of the position.
The results? Davis became Ash's clear top target and the team's leading receiver, as well as the most dangerous deep threat on the roster. The year included a highlight reel reception over Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert that would set up the game-winning Joe Bergeron touchdown. Even with the strong season, Davis left some plays and production on the table, including drops throughout the season and a disappointing final three games.
The lingering questions about Davis's focus and consistency, as well as the lack of an elite Texas wide receiver since Jordan Shipley's 2009 season, have Davis in a contract year for 2013. An experienced quarterback poised to have a breakout junior season, and a new play caller looking to open up the offense and pick up the pace have Davis in position to have a huge senior year.
He'll have his deep opportunities in the play action passing game, but also looks to have more opportunities in the screen and quick passing game, where he flashed in spots with quick feet and subtle shake. Look for Davis to make a bigger and more consistent impact as a senior and strengthen his NFL Draft prospects in 2013, as well as save the legacy of a 2010 recruiting class that has seen five of the 10 offensive players transfer without ever having contributed at Texas.