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Looking Ahead: The Wide Receivers

On Monday we took a look at Texas' returning rushers, who will be vital to the non-Vince offensive attack. (Parenthetically, at what point do we stop talking about Vince Young? I ask earnestly. Clearly not in 2006, as "Life After Vince" will define every single Texas story written on the planet. I wonder how much we talk about him in 2007. I'd guess a lot. Anyway.)

Today's discussion turns to the returning wide receivers, also a talented and diverse bunch that includes some newcomers. We'll tackle them all today, from least to most important.

Meet The New Guys Bobby Kennedy might have done the best recruiting job of any of the Texas coaches, landing an elite group of receivers that will join the Horns this fall. Among the names you should know: Deon Beasley, Josh Marshall, Phillip Payne, and Montre Webber. Payne and Webber are the ones to keep an eye on, as they could potentially contribute on offense if a rash of injuries breaks out. In all likelihood, Beasley will be asked to contribute mostly on defense.

Nate Jones The junior receiver wasn't much of a factor for the Horns in 2005, managing only nine catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. With a lot of talent ahead of him on the depth chart, as well as the incoming kids that might be ready to contribute right away, Jones isn't likely to make much of an impact this year, either.

Quan Cosby The speedy Cosby came on strong at the end of the year, posting 245 yards over the final five games of the year, including a pair of touchdowns. He chipped in on special teams as well, as I suspect he will once again this year, perhaps even supplanting Aaron Ross as the primary punt returner as the season progresses. At 5-11, he doesn't have ideal size, but he makes for a nice flanker and will get his share of playing time in 2006. Shipley's health will determine exactly how much.

Jordan Shipley Anyone who's read this blog over the last couple months knows that we're weary of counting on anything from Shipley, as he's got Ken Griffey Disease. Still, his talent is undeniable, and if he -does- remain healthy, he can be a difference maker, which he flashed signs of during the spring game. We'll save our praise until we see it in live action, but we're rooting for him to stick this year. He can help spread the field for the new quarterbacks better than any other Texas receiver.

Billy Pittman 34 catches, 750 yards, 5 touchdowns, 2nd Team All Big 12. Yes, please. Pittman's sophomore season was a terrific debut after a redshirt in 2003 and a shoulder injury in 2004. He's not lightning fast, but he gets open and generally runs good routes. He benefited from opponents' need to key on Vince Young and the Texas rushers more than anyone else last year. He won't have as easy a time this year, though Texas' running game will be strong once more. We'll be watching closely to see if he can build rapport with either of the incoming quarterbacks. They'll need a go-to receiver, which is why it's so important that....

Limas Sweed ....takes another step forward this year. After a disappointing freshman season, Limas improved quite a bit in his sophomore campaign, netting 36 catches for 545 yards and 5 TDs, including the game winner against Ohio State. While the improvement deserves commendation, he failed to improve his physicality with (almost always) weaker defenders, preventing him from getting the kind of separation a man with his size and speed should enjoy. We think he's ready to take another step forward, and while he's not poised to be an all-star just yet, we think he'll be much closer to the previous #4 by the time he's a senior. Sweed can inspire awe and disgust in the same game; consistency is the key this year.

Looking Ahead: Tailbacks, Wide Receivers