ARLINGTON, Texas — There’s an X-factor emerging for the 2021 Texas Longhorns offense.
Fresno (Calif.) Central wide receiver Xavier Worthy already has the merchandise on sale — a stylized X with a lightning bolt over the phrase “The Real Flash” marks his nascent apparel line.
A late addition to the 2021 Texas recruiting class who originally signed with Michigan, Worthy hasn’t even put on pads yet after arriving in Austin for summer conditioning, but he’s quickly created buzz around his potential.
When new head coach Steve Sarkisian took over for the Longhorns, one of his first comments about roster construction was noting the glut of wide receivers on the roster — a full 15 percent of the available scholarship were devoted to the position.
So it was notable when one of Sarkisian’s initial decisions on the Forty Acres was pursuing Worthy, who announced his intentions to seek a release from his National Letter of Intent to Michigan in mid-April. Less than 10 days later, in the midst of the Orange-White game that ended spring practice for the Longhorns, Worthy announced his commitment to Sarkisian, who had pursued him when he was the offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide.
Sarkisian’s intent was clear — he took Worthy because he coveted the 10.55 100-meter speed that the California product flashed as a sophomore. The type of speed that served as a hallmark of Sarkisian’s Alabama offenses featuring DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jaylen Waddle.
At Big 12 Media Days, sophomore running back Bijan Robinson expressed his familiarity with the Jeudy comparisons, but went a step further in describing Worthy’s ability.
“I know that he’s probably being compared to Jerry Jeudy, but I see a little bit of uniqueness in him when it comes to running routes, when it comes to exploding after a catch, when it comes to creating space,” Robinson said. “When he does catch the ball, he’s been very explosive for our offense.”
The 6’1, 160-pound Worthy missed out on his senior season in California, but as a junior he put plenty of explosiveness on film, averaging 18.4 yards per catch and scoring a touchdown on every 3.4 catches.
So far he’s doing the same thing in Austin, regardless of the venue.
“When we start running routes at a park or at a different stadium, he just makes it look really easy for us,” Robinson said. “When I see him, I see a lot of real explosion coming out of him. I’m really excited to see what he can do for us this season.”
In the way that Sarkisian layers his offense, explosive wide receivers are extremely important because the first layer is the run-pass offense that can force defenses to play their middle safety at 10 yards or so in order to stop the run or the glance run-pass option. Whenever Sarkisian sees that, he’ll force the defense to cover the post route and Worthy is exactly the type of player who can make opponents pay for that decision with his explosiveness.
“It’s a big component to what we do,” Sarkisian said at Big 12 Media Days. “Having speed at wideout and taking the top off is a big component. We’re trying to be a physical running football team that can take the top off the defense when you commit to the run. Xavier Worthy is a guy that provides that speed.”
According to Sarkisian, that type of speed isn’t a prerequisite for playing in his offense, but it does help a player separate. And someone that does it as well as Worthy tends to draw lofty comparisons.
Other wide receivers on the roster like Joshua Moore and Kelvontay Dixon bring that element to the offense, as well, but neither of them are drawing the type of buzz that Worthy has so far.
“That dude right there is another Tyreek Hill in college,” redshirt junior nose tackle Keondre Coburn said. “I have never seen somebody get into a second gear to go get a ball in my life the way he did a couple of days ago.”
Living up to that standard will be difficult for Worthy. If the early returns are any indication, though, just being himself is enough.
The Real Flash has arrived.