All the speed and all the talent of Texas Longhorns freshman wide receiver Devin Duvernay may not be enough to earn significant playing time this season.
The nation’s No. 4 wide receiver looks like he will have to wait his turn because of the emergence of senior Jacorey Warrick, known as Petey, who wasn’t even expected to earn a starting role until Texas head coach Charlie Strong began to praise him late in fall camp.
"The guy you're not asking about who's probably having a really good camp right now, if you look at it on offense, is Jacorey Warrick," Strong said. “I think he's having an unbelievable camp right now. He's making all the catches and is just practicing so hard. You feel him."
With the news that Warrick was working as the team’s starting punt returner, it became more obvious that the Houston-area product had stepped up in a big way.
And so against the Fighting Irish, Warrick received his first career start, catching two passes for 35 yards and accumulating a career-high 65 all-purpose yards. His 20-yard catch in the first overtime helped set up a touchdown run by senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes.
Against UTEP, the 5’10, 170-pounder set a new career high in receiving yards with seven catches for 73 yards and his first collegiate touchdown. Warrick could have had another, but fumbled the ball out the side of the end zone on the first Texas possession just before crossing the goal line.
So it was hardly a perfect performance, but he has continued to attract the notice of his head coach.
“You look at the guys who just continue to be effective in two games,” Strong said. “Look what Petey has done — nobody ever heard of Petey until this year and look how effective he is on punt returns, and then he catches the ball, he can make a guy miss. Then he’s able to move the ball and get the yards after the catch. It’s just really fun to watch.”
Warrick now has five punt returns for 39 yards in two games and while that’s not an overly impressive number, it’s been his poise in that role that has made him so valuable — he’s directed traffic in front of him, caught everything cleanly, and generally inspired confidence that he can make the right decisions in a phase where recklessness can easily lead to turnovers.
The contributions from Warrick in his final season on the Forty Acres aren’t a complete surprise, as he caught three passes for 76 yards in the Orange-White game — there just weren’t any indications that this would happen coming out of the 2015 season.
Last year, Warrick played in only six games and caught six passes for 35 yards, with four of them coming in the blowout against Kansas.
In fact, the former consensus four-star prospect, who was recruited by former head coach Mack Brown as a member of the 2013 recruiting class, had experienced some diminishing returns.
In Major Applewhite’s offense as a freshman after ranking as the the No. 31 wide receiver nationally, Warrick played in four games, but didn’t record a catch. Then, under play caller Shawn Watson after Strong arrived, he caught 10 passes for 94 yards before playing a smaller role in 2015.
Like many players on the team, increased competition has made Warrick better as he has perhaps become a little bit more desperate to make some big contributions before his college career is over.
And so, to the surprise of virtually everyone, the real Petey is finally standing up.