A wild year that saw Brenden Schooler transfer from the Oregon Ducks to the Arizona Wildcats and then to the Texas Longhorns will give way to a plan for a little more stability in 2021 — the graduate transfer wide receiver announced on Thursday that he’ll return to the Forty Acres next season, taking advantage of NCAA eligibility rules instituted because of the pandemic.
A track standout from Dana Point, Calif. who played defense in high school, Schooler was a low three-star prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, but quickly made an impact at Oregon, starting 10 games at safety as a freshman and finishing third on the team with 74 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.
As a sophomore, Schooler moved to wide receiver and adjusted quickly enough to make three starts and catch 20 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. He also emerged as a special teams standout, making seven tackles and earning first-team All-Conference honors from the Pac-12’s coaches in that phase.
In 2018, Schooler served as the team captain in two games, starting 10 overall and recording 21 receptions for 203 yards and one touchdown. On special teams, his stellar efforts continued, as he matched his 2017 total of seven tackles. Pac-12 coaches once again recognized him as a first-team All-Conference special teams performer.
Unfortunately for Schooler, a foot injury during preseason camp in 2019 limited him to two games that season. Even beyond Schooler’s contributions as a wide receiver and on special teams, Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal made clear at the time that Schooler’s contributions were exceptional off the field, too.
“The thing about Brenden is he’s not only a great player, he’s a great leader and feel terrible for him because he’s a tremendous human being,” Cristobal said. “Off the charts. Means a lot to the guys out there and knowing him he’s probably trying to squat and run today but he will try and get back as fast as he can and he will because he’s that type of guy.”
During the 2020 offseason, Schooler decided to transfer to Arizona to join his brother, Colin, a multi-year standout at linebacker. But when the Pac-12 initially decided not to play football in the fall, both Schoolers decided to look for new destinations. In late August, Brenden landed in Austin and Colin made his way to Lubbock to play for the Red Raiders.
The late decision to transfer left Schooler scrambling to learn the playbook at Texas, a task that he accomplished quickly with rare aptitude and professionalism.
“A lot of guys can’t even learn the whole offense with extreme detail over a whole season, let alone in two weeks,” senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger said.
Schooler made his debut against UTEP, catching two passes for 65 yards and scoring a 40-yard touchdown. Then Schooler faced another challenge — the outside wide receiver had to take another crash course, this time in playing slot receiver thanks to injuries to sophomore Jake Smith and redshirt freshman Jordan Whittington.
In the matchup against his brother at Texas Tech, Schooler was a favored target of Ehlinger, catching seven passes for 58 yards and scoring another touchdown.
After that performance, however, Schooler’s production dropped, in large part due to a thigh contusion that required draining on multiple occasions. Since the TCU game, Schooler only has two catches for six yards, but he has continued to contribute on special teams by making two tackles.
“I think if you’re a young receiver trying to earn the trust of your quarterback, go watch Brenden Schooler,” head coach Tom Herman said. “When you’re supposed to run a fade , don’t run a slant. When you’re supposed to run a slant, don’t run a fade. Do the little things right and go really, really hard. Quarterbacks tend to gravitate to guys like that. It’s been fun watching him assimilate himself into our family and we’re really glad we have him.”
With the decision to return in 2021, Schooler will have more time to acclimate to the Longhorns offense and provide steady leadership in Andre Coleman’s wide receiver room as Schooler finishes a college career with a few more twists and turns than he originally anticipated.