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Texas WR Brennan Eagles set for a starring role in 2020

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After flashing in 2019, the big, speedy junior could become the team’s No. 1 receiver this year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Texas at West Virginia Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the first time in the Tom Herman era, the Texas Longhorns will not have a Duvernay or Johnson starting at receiver. So with quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s security blankets gone, a new receiver must step to the forefront, and he might just be the most talented one yet.

Brennan Eagles is a guy everybody is excited to see in a starring role rather than as part of the supporting cast,” head coach Tom Herman told the Houston Touchdown Club last Thursday.

The Houston native will enter the 2020 season as the most proven contributor in a group of young but talented playmakers. After a solid sophomore campaign that saw Eagles eclipse the 500-yard receiving mark and record six touchdowns, the wideout is set up for an even more successful junior season as he moves from the Z-position to the X position.

X marks the spot

We got a taste of Eagles in the X position his freshman year against Tulsa when he filled in for an injured Collin Johnson.

Notice D’Shawn Jamison in the H-spot with Duvernay on the outside playing the Z position. Tulsa’s linebackers overreact to the fake bubble screen for Jamison while Duvernay grabs the attention of three defenders, leaving Eagles all alone.

Of course, the next time we’ll see Eagles line up in the X he won’t have Duvernay beside him. Nor Collin Johnson. As Eagles becomes the No. 1 option for Texas, defenses will be faced with a dilemma — either defend Eagles one-on-one and pray your corner can match up with the 6’4, 230-pound receiver (who by the way ran a 4.51 in high school) or play a safety over the top which will open the door for the running game or, more importantly, the H position that will feature Jake Smith and Jordan Whittington this year.

We can’t make any promises that the Texas playmakers will stay healthy, but if they do, and that’s a strong if, Ehlinger will be surrounded by the most talent and athleticism during his tenure on the Forty Acres.

Making the jump

Wide receivers in Tom Herman’s offense always seem to reach another level during their junior year. With both Duvernay and Johnson gone, look for Brennan Eagles to do exactly the same.

Texas WR’s

Devin Duvernay 4 41 88 546 0 4
Collin Johnson 54 68 765 985 2 7
Lil'Jordan Humphrey 37 86 431 1,196 1 9
Brennan Eagles 32 ? 522 ? 6 ?

Duvernay’s breakout junior season came out of nowhere, nearly reaching 100 catches after only four during his sophomore campaign. For Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, each built upon their successful sophomore seasons to each become an integral part of the offense the following year.

Herman was responsible or at least oversaw the development of a X wide receiver at Ohio State that you might remember by the name of Michael Thomas. After only three catches his freshman year, Thomas redshirted his sophomore season before taking over the starting spot in 2014 en route to a breakout season that featured 54 receptions, 799 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns.

Could this be a preview of Eagles in the X position? Thomas is just an inch shorter than Eagles with a 40 time (4.57) that isn’t as fast as that of Eagles and is almost thirty pounds lighter. Compare that to Eagles’ predecessor at the X position, Collin Johnson, who is 6’6, but far less elusive than Eagles and had more trouble creating separation.

With redshirt sophomore Malcolm Epps officially moving to tight end, Eagles is by far the most experienced receiver on the roster. Whittington only appeared in one game before suffering a season-ending injury and Smith saw his production drop after the first half of the season. Meanwhile, Joshua Moore is expected to start at the Z position, but hasn’t taken a snap since 2018 due to his season-long suspension last year.

With Johnson in and out of the lineup due to injuries, Texas fans have truly yet to see what Herman has visioned for the X wide receiver. If Eagles can stay on the field, the junior wideout has a chance develop into a dangerous tandem with Ehlinger that opposing Big 12 defenses will not enjoy defending.