AUSTIN, Texas — On the Forty Acres, Tarik Black is something of a unicorn.
Not only is the senior Texas Longhorns wide receiver the first player in school history to wear No. 0 following a change in NCAA regulations this year, he’s also the most experienced player in position coach Andre Coleman’s room.
On a team that doesn’t have any other senior wide receivers until the arrival of fellow graduate transfer Brenden Schooler from his brief stop in Arizona, Black was recruited from Michigan during the offseason to provide some stability to a position that lost Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay from last year’s team.
According to head coach Tom Herman, Black approaches the game with a quiet confidence that doesn’t require him to say much — he just goes to work, earning the trust of his teammates in the process.
“He has assimilated well,” Herman said. “The guys on the team have embraced him because of his work ethic, his contributions to the team and the offense in particular. He’s very selfless — he wants to be on all the Special Forces units, volunteering to do that, as you would expect with a grad transfer.”
From the perspective of the coaches, Black’s addition to the team has been smooth, as well.
“When it comes to watching video study in his playbook, as well as take care of his body, that’s a guy, you just really don’t have to remind him a whole lot to do any of those things because of his maturity level, so we’re thrilled to have him,” Herman said.
But how much of an impact can Black make on the team this season?
If he’s able to stay healthy — a significant question mark after injuries limited him as a freshman in 2017 and as a sophomore in 2018 — Black will have a chance to replace Johnson’s production at the X receiver position.
When Black arrived, it wasn’t clear which outside position he would play, but with preseason camp now complete and the Longhorns moving on to preparation for the season opener against the Miners, Black looks like the starter over junior Brennan Eagles.
And so while it’s disappointing that Eagles hasn’t yet shown signs of taking the next step in his developing during a crucial junior season for the Houston product, Black has exceeded expectations so far.
A 6’3, 217-pounder, Black recorded 40 receptions for 507 yards and two touchdowns during his time in Ann Arbor thanks to a combination of size and speed that made him a consensus four-star prospect out of high school in Connecticut. Where Black has impressed the most is with his agility, whether it was making junior cornerback Jalen Green miss in the open field early during practice or showing off his route-running ability.
Neither of those skills were evident on his highlights for Michigan, so there’s reason for optimism that Black can provide some yards after the catch and get open frequently enough to make himself a consistent target for senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
The result of Black’s strong performance in preseason camp is that he’s now the first summer enrollee to lose the stripe on his helmet that signals he’s a newcomer.
Replacing Duvernay’s production on third down will be particularly important for Texas this season. Of the 106 catches made by Duvernay last season, 28 of them came on third down. He converted 24 of those catches into first downs.
Since sophomore Jake Smith and redshirt freshman Jordan Whittington lack experience and almost certainly won’t be able to replace all those conversions themselves, the Horns will need other wide receivers to step up.
Black was not a consistent third-down target while he was at Michigan, so it’s still questionable whether he can emerge in that area at Texas, but Black does appear to have the tools to make that leap as a fourth-year player.
If he can, he’ll provide a big boost to a Longhorns offense attempting to become one of the elite attacks in the nation.