There for a little while, catching a Texas Longhorns wide receiver blocking downfield was about as likely as catching a Yeti on film.
A couple of those guys on the 2010 may have professed an allergy to the task if asked. Or noted that they came to Texas to catch passes.
The addition of wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt after the 2010 season has sparked an increased emphasis on the blocking game for the position group in the running game and the passing game.
How much of an emphasis? Well, senior wide receiver Marquise Goodwin won the Offensive MVP award after only registering two catches for 15 yards against New Mexico. And it wasn't for those two catches either.
Based on the comments from Texas head coach Mack Brown on Monday, there was a specific reason for Goodwin receiving the award:
What we are selling - it's not about how many touches you get, or how many balls you get. It's about how you play. He played really, really well. I think it's a message to everybody that he touched it twice, and is the "Most Valuable Player" in the game for us, offensively. That's what we're trying to get to.
After reviewing some of the film, the instances of Goodwin effectively blocking a Lobo defensive back are numerous, notably on the touchdown catch and run by Mike Davis that put the 'Horns up 17-0 before halftime and helped spark that run in the middle of the game that provided the knockout punch to Bob Davie and his football team.
Brown offered high praise when he tried to put Goodwin's blocking efforts into perspective:
Even though he just touched the ball twice, he blocked as well as any receiver I've ever seen. He just stayed after him and became a force. We're really pushing our down field blocking to get more explosives.
Through the air or after the catch, it doesn't particularly matter how Texas picks up that chunk yardage, it just needs to happen. With each of the receivers registering at least one strong block during the game, Texas has a chance to take short passes, screens, and flares for significant yardage nearing every time if the defense makes those throws available.
The big guys in the trenches like to see the little skill positions players doing work on the outside, and junior offensive guard Mason Walters has been impressed with Goodwin's efforts, achievements that go against the prevailing stereotypes for pass catchers:
Marquise came here to catch the ball, get it in space and score touchdowns. I think that's what's encouraging to see a guy doing that, and it's not his job. He's taken it upon himself to go out there and help his teammates win. That's the effort it's going to take week in and week out to accomplish what we want.
Wide receivers are known as divas, as some of the most selfish players on any football team, reliant as they are on others to get them the football. Instead of buying into that mentality after minimal targets through the first two games and no opportunities on speed sweeps, Goodwin is instead adopting a team mentality.
What Mack Brown would call a winning mentality.
It's all part of the transition of the Longhorns into a more physical football team, an identity the team is still working to full realize, according to co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin ($):
We're getting better (being a more physical team). We're headed in that direction. Week to week we're getting better, that's what the whole pitch offensively for us is, to get better week to week.
Steady but definable progress, which is already apparent from the spring.
After getting the buy-in, which looks apparent given the results on film, the next step is to execute every play, or at least as many plays as possible:
(Physicality) is starting to show up on a consistent basis with the eleven guys on the field on each play. If you have that mentality, we have a chance and it's gotten better week to week.
There's major risk-reward associated with attempting those lower-percentage passes in the hopes of finding the big plays that get fans excited. Sometimes it just isn't worth the attempt, and sometimes other elements of the offense help create easier opportunities:
What we have to be able to do is be good enough in the short and intermediate games, and when the long ball presents itself, take advantage of it. If we set our sights on it, it can become 2nd-and-10 in a hurry.
If we can hit (the short passes) consistently, it draws the coverage down and then you can hit the long balls.
Brown is on the same page. In fact, the Texas head man isn't worried about the issues completing long throws:
I'm really not, because the short ones are working. Then it doesn't matter. When they take the short ones away, you get more long ones, to be honest with you.
After all, the defense can only commit so many resources in so many different places. Resources allocated to stopping the running game inside don't go into pass defense and resources allocated deep to take away the big play open up the perimeter efforts of Texas on sweeps and short passes.
As the Longhorn offense continues to grow, it will continue to put defensive coordinators in difficult positions by forcing and then exploiting those resource allocation choices. As well as those defensive backs, who will have to put in some extra practice time separating from the now-tenacious Texas wideouts. Hey, there are Offensive MVP awards to be won out there locking someone up for the other pretty boy skill position players at Texas.