When Lil’Jordan Humphrey announced his decision to depart for the NFL following a breakout junior campaign, it became clear that the Texas Longhorns had some considerable shoes to fill in their receiver room, and specifically, in the slot. Seniors Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay were set to man the X and Z receiver roles, respectively, but someone — seemingly sophomore Joshua Moore or freshman Jake Smith — would be required to step up in the slot.
Entering preseason camp, Texas was still searching for a starter in the slot, though it now appears that the Horns have an answer to that end courtesy of Brennan Eagles’ emergence on the outside, which has been so substantial that it’s prompted the staff to switch Duvernay to the slot from his long-time role at Z.
“I think Brennan Eagles, certainly on offense,” Herman said when asked of which player has taken a major step forward ahead of the season. “I think that was the biggest reason for moving Devin [Duvernay]. We’ve got some youth at H right now in Josh [Moore] being a true sophomore and Jake [Smith] being a true freshman, so in order to get what is now our best three guys out there in the starting lineup, Brennan was in that group so we moved Duvernay to the slot.”
“Brennan has taken to the starting job pretty well,” Herman added.
Though this development is an interesting one in that it essentially uprooted Duvernay from his role at the Z, it isn’t too surprising given Eagles’ truly elite upside.
That much started to become evident once spring football arrived. After spending his freshman campaign in a reserve role behind Johnson, Eagles transitioned to Z as the staff experimented with Malcolm Epps at the X. With Duvernay missing the front end of spring practice with a stress reaction in his pubic bone and fellow senior John Burt focusing on running track, the opportunity for Eagles to solidify his role in the two-deep and essentially set himself up as a starter-in-waiting upon Duvernay’s graduation was quite clearly at hand.
Eagles made the most of the moment.
Eagles finished the spring as the second-team Z behind Duvernay, but between then and now, as Herman noted, the sophomore has made it clear that he’s one of Texas’ top three receivers. Eagles does lack in the experience department, as he played sparingly in 11 games as a true freshman, finishing with just one reception for 35 yards, but he undoubtedly checks all of the right boxes from a physical standpoint.
Now listed at 6’4, 225 pounds — up from his signing day size up 6’3, 215 — Eagles boasts even more mass than the Horns had with Humphrey, who was regarded as a big-bodied receiver, only Eagles comes equipped with 4.5 40-yard dash speed, a near 40-inch vertical leap, and remarkable lateral agility in the form of a 3.99-second shuttle.
On paper, this package of attributes is nothing short of praiseworthy, but fortunately for the Horns — potentially earlier than expected — Eagles’ size, speed, and sure-handedness has transitioned to the field so notably that the staff felt it imperative to find a way to get him onto it, even if it meant moving a senior starter to the slot.