Entering the Orange-White game on Saturday, Texas Longhorns junior wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey had a chance — and perhaps even a need — to stand out for the White team in his first appearance since the regular-season finale.
Consider the mission accomplished.
After a buzzy spring that increased expectations for the 6’4, 220-pounder, Humphrey absolutely delivered with a game-high seven receptions for 100 yards, all in the first half. For good measure, Humphrey also carried the ball four times for 14 yards and two touchdowns.
Head coach Tom Herman said that talking about Humphrey puts a smile on his face, which is not a small development considering that Herman surely wasn’t smiling when he was forced to suspend Humphrey for the Texas Bowl for violating team rules.
“LJ’s about as versatile an offensive skill player as I’ve ever been around,” Herman said. “He can play outside. He can play in the slot. He can carry the football. He’s got unbelievable ball skills. Really, really football smart, and really proud of his development.”
Humphrey spent time playing the X position this spring after playing next to Collin Johnson in 10 personnel and in the slot last season. Expect him to line up all over the field as a junior to take advantage of his ability to play in so many different places.
Will running back be one of those positions? On a day when neither of the scholarship running backs impressed, Humphrey was the lone bright spot at the position, showing good vision and remarkable pad level for his height. It was quite a flash back to his days as a running back for Southlake Carroll.
“I don’t know at running back,” Herman said. “I think there’s definitely going to be some situations. I think you’ll see some wildcat stuff with him, absolutely.”
Humphrey got some limited action on direct snaps last season, carrying the ball six times for 41 yards and a touchdown.
No matter what role Humphrey plays in the running game, he appears to be in competition with fellow junior Collin Johnson to become the team’s best wide receiver. Last season, Humphrey finished second on the team in receiving yards behind Johnson with 431 yards on 37 catches. However, he only scored one receiving touchdown.
Success in the spring game doesn’t always translate to success during the season, but the hope with Humphrey is that he’s on the right trajectory.
“You want to talk about a guy that can catch the ball on third and medium, third and long, and get you a first down, there’s no secret quarterbacks throw the ball to guys they have confidence in, and I’m not saying that if a guy only had one catch tonight that they don’t have confidence,” Herman said. “But when you see a guy have whatever, however many catches, I felt like he had 30 catches out there — when you see a guy like him and Collin have the amount of catches that they do, that means the quarterbacks believe in them.
“I do think — nobody’s going to confuse LJ Humphrey’s speed with John Burt or Devin Duvernay’s, but he doesn’t need track speed to get open. He’s a really, really good football player. Really good.”
Showing the ability to play running back at 6’4 at the college level is certainly the mark of an excellent football player and helps make Humphrey a dangerous receiver after the catch, though he wasn’t able to show that facet of his game as a wide receiver on Saturday.
To take the next step as a program, Texas needs more game-changing plays from the wide receivers. Humphrey’s unique skill makes him one of the most best bets to step forward and fill that role.