On Monday, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian revealed that Whittington, a junior wide receiver, suffered a clavicle injury requiring surgery and Jones, a super senior Jack end, suffered a foot injury that will also require surgery. Neither player currently has a timetable to return.
The loss of Whittington is significant — he’s tied with freshman wide receiver Xavier Worthy for the team lead in receptions (24) and second in receiving yards (356) and touchdowns (three). Perhaps more importantly, he’s emerged as the team’s most reliable threat on third down with 11 receptions for 194 yards and nine conversions. So more than half of his receiving yards this season have come on the money down.
In Whittington’s absence, the two wide receivers who will receive opportunities are junior Marcus Washington and redshirt freshman Kelvontay Dixon.
Washington has become the team’s most effective blocker at the wide receiver position, but he hasn’t been able to make an impact in the passing game yet with two receptions for 23 yards. However, he has shown signs that he’s close to contributing — he tripped on a potential long completion earlier in the season and nearly came down with an impressive touchdown catch against Oklahoma before landing just out of bounds.
An ankle injury during preseason camp set back Dixon, who has three catches for 48 yards this year. Like Worthy, he’s a speedy wide receiver with the capability of producing big plays, as he did on a 73-yard touchdown catch against Colorado in the Alamo Bowl.
Sarkisian also noted that Texas could make some personnel changes to reduce the pressure on Washington and Dixon by playing more two-tight end formations or using two running backs — both options arguably put better players on the field than the two still relatively-unproven wide receivers. And Sarkisian has used both formations enough so far this season that it’s clear there are already packages of plays available for 12 and 20 personnel groupings.
The loss of Jones provides a chance for sophomore defensive lineman Alfred Collins to see the field more often.
“The guy who’s probably made some of the best progress for us defensively has been Alfred Collins — he’s really played well the last two weeks. So I think this is a great opportunity for him to get to get more playing time,” Sarkisian said.
Collins flashed his ability off the edge with a sack on Saturday when he used a bull rush to decleat the Oklahoma tackle. The Bastrop product finished with three tackles and a quarterback hurry against the Sooners and provides the mass at 302 pounds to effectively set the edge against the run.
Junior Ovie Oghoufo and super senior Ben Davis are the other players Sarkisian mentioned, but both are under 240 pounds and more likely to make an impact as pass rushers — they’re also listed as the top two strongside linebackers on the depth chart. Davis has played sparingly so far this season as he’s worked his way back to full health after an offseason foot injury, but did force the fumble by Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler that ultimately resulted in Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley pulling Rattler from the game in favor of freshman Caleb Williams.