Physically, Texas Longhorns wide receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps isn’t a guy who ever jumped out at evaluators — always wiry, the redshirt freshman is now listed at 6’1 and 185 pounds.
In high school, the measurables weren’t stunning, either, as Hemphill-Mapps ran a 4.63 40-yard dash, recorded a 4.20 shuttle, and posted a 32-inch vertical leap.
As a senior on a talent-laden Manvel team, the consensus three-star prospect had the least-productive season of his high school career in touchdown catches with five and his second-least productive season in receiving yards with 562. Keep in mind that Hemphill-Mapps played four seasons on varsity.
By the time the long recruitment of Hemphill-Mapps came to end, his stock was at a low ebb — 247Sports ranked him as the No. 97 wide receiver nationally and the No. 88 player in Texas.
Following a redshirt season, there wasn’t much buzz around Hemphill-Mapps amidst a deep wide receiver corps.
And then the Orange-White game happened and Hemphill-Mapps turned in a breakout performance with five catches for 84 yards as he consistently showed the ability to separation against opposing defensive backs. Only sophomore Collin Johnson had more receiving yards in the scrimmage.
As a result of that performance and continued hard work in recent months, head coach Tom Herman cited his young wide receiver as the most likely redshirt freshman to break out in 2017.
“Reggie (Hemphill-Mapps) would be the guy,” he said. “Reggie's had a great spring, he's had a really good summer.”
The biggest key has been getting stronger — Hemphill-Mapps isn’t going to play if he can’t block opposing nickel backs and strongside linebackers and he was simply too small to succeed consistently in that area.
While gaining strength will remain an ongoing process for the lanky wide receiver, Herman did express satisfaction at the progress Hemphill-Mapps has made since he arrived.
Suddenly, there are some expectations placed on a player who looked like a candidate to get buried on the depth chart within a year or two. Those expectations extend to the position overall because of how much Herman uses the slot in his offense — his slot receivers at Houston nearly caught 100 balls apiece over the last two seasons.
Hemphill-Mapps also faces plenty of competition there, including speedster Devin Duvernay, the team’s leading receiver form last season, Armanti Foreman, and fellow redshirt freshman Davion Curtis.
But Herman also expressed his desire to get the best wide receivers on the field regardless of position, so that could mean that Hemphill-Mapps sees time at flanker, where senior Jerrod Heard, junior John Burt, and senior Lorenzo Joe are competing for snaps.
What will help set Hemphill-Mapps apart from those groups given his relative lack of size and speed compared to his teammates?
Herman believes that the coaching Hemphill-Mapps received at Manvel has helped him become a technically-proficient route runner — he’s good enough to maximize his explosiveness out of his breaks. He also has reliable hands.
However, it’s difficult to project how frequently during the season Texas will run the flood concepts that helped Hemphill-Mapps get open on deep and intermediate routes during the Orange-White game, his only public performance so far in burnt orange and white.
If those plays remain a consistent part of the offense, then Herman’s pick of Hemphill-Mapps as the breakout redshirt freshman this year could prove prophetic.