The slot position for the Texas Longhorns should receive a boost for Saturday’s home game against the TCU Horned Frogs with the expected availability of sophomore Jake Smith for the first time this season.
On Monday, head coach Tom Herman said that Smith practiced full speed on Sunday and will play against TCU this weekend as long as he doesn’t experience any setbacks this week.
Smith suffered the injury almost three weeks ago in preparation for the season opener against UTEP, but then experienced a setback last week when he was reportedly dealing with a non-COVID-19 illness.
After earning the starting job at the H position during preseason camp, Smith was expected to become a key contributor this season with the graduation of last season’s starter in the slot, Devin Duvernay.
In fact, Smith is known as one of the most difficult Texas receivers to cover.
“He’s so shifty, he can change speeds, and he’s quick in and out of his cuts,” senior safety Chris Brown said. “Definitely, Jake Smith is one of the tougher guys on the team to cover the slot.”
After Duvernay and Lil’Jordan Humphrey led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in the last two seasons, the H position, the slot receiver for the Texas offense, has emerged as a key linchpin in the offense, at least when Herman was running it. Duvernay was especially effective getting open on third downs despite defenses using a variety of different coverages trying to stop him.
As a true freshman, Smith was an impact player as the fourth-leading receiver with 25 catches for 274 yards and six touchdowns even though he hit the proverbial freshman wall following a strong start.
For the last six quarters, the Longhorns were thin at the slot position due to Smith’s injury, the knee injury suffered by redshirt freshman Jordan Whittington just before halftime against the Miners, and the decision by freshman Dajon Harrison to opt out.
As a result, new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich used more 12 personnel and moved graduate transfer Brenden Schooler to the slot. Schooler led the team in receptions against Texas Tech with seven catches for 58 yards and his second touchdown at Texas. Walk-on Kai Money has also received playing time, scoring against UTEP and catching four passes for 39 yards.
So even though the Horns received solid contributions from both players, Smith’s expected return should improve the Texas offense because of his dynamic ability and big-play potential.