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Texas still hasn’t developed WR depth behind Xavier Worthy, Jordan Whittington

The loss of Isaiah Neyor continues to loom large for a group that lacks consistency behind its two leading receivers.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Neyor ain’t walking through that door.

Twelve catches. One hundred ninety-six yards. Zero touchdowns.

Behind Texas Longhorns sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy and junior wide receiver Jordan Whittington, head coach Steve Sarkisian and position coach Brennen Marion are still seeking consistent contributions from the rest of the wide receivers on the roster with only four games remaining on the regular season.

“I think the reality of it is to play really good football, whether you’re on offense, defense, special teams, whatever your role is, you’ve got to fight for consistency,” Sarkisian said Monday. “And I think that’s one of the things with that third receiver spot that we have just struggled to get is a really consistent player in his role and what is asked of him to go do.”

Among the group of receivers competing for that role, which includes redshirt freshman Casey Cain, senior Tarique Milton, freshman Brenen Thompson, senior walk-on Gabe Sulser, redshirt sophomore Troy Omeire, sophomore Agiye Hall, and freshman Savion Red, Cain is the only player with more than two catches, recording four receptions for 93 yards this season.

But Cain is also the group’s poster boy for inconsistency, recording each of those catches in the first four games and then failing to make a catch over the last four games. Beyond struggling to find the football in the air, Cain had a huge drop in the close win over Iowa State. Leading 17-14 late in the third quarter, Cain was wide open on an over route. A play-action fake drew in the safeties before redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers rolled out to his right and delivered a perfect pass that hit Cain in stride. But the young wide receiver took his eye off the ball and dropped the potential 58-yard touchdown catch.

“This is not about one play, right?” Sarkisian said. “If you’re in there for 10 or 12, it’s for those 10 or 12 that you’re in there and so that’s the challenge and that’s what we’re striving for. I think all those guys are working for that, they’re trying to get that done so that they can be a solid contributor to the team.”

Despite the lack of inconsistency from Cain, it’s the inconsistency of Milton, the Iowa State transfer who came to Texas with 99 career catches for 1,519 yards and seven touchdowns, that ranks as the most frustrating. Milton drew praise from Sarkisian for his maturity and work ethic in preseason camp, but it hasn’t translated to the field with Milton recording only two catches for 40 yards this season.

Only getting two catches from Omeire and Hall is less surprising — Omeire is coming off of two knee injuries and may not ever fulfill the preseason buzz that he created in 2020 and Hall was always a developmental projected set back by his preseason legal issue and the staff’s desire to redshirt him this season.

Over the last four regular-season games, the player with the best chance of emerging is Thompson, the speedster from Spearman who recorded his first catch against Oklahoma State, taking a simple screen pass 32 yards. Thompson previously flashed as a blocker late in the blowout against Oklahoma after dealing with some health issues that slowed his development. With Texas lacking another deep threat to complement Worthy, Thompson could provide that needed verticality with his elite speed as defenses focus on stopping Worthy.

But even if Thompson doesn’t come on this season, the Longhorns can stick with what’s been working — playing with extra tight ends or running backs to make up for the deficiencies at wide receiver — even if the ideal is to develop players in Marion’s position group.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve got enough variation personnel grouping-wise that we don’t have to rely solely on that,” Sarkisian said. “We can use multiple tight ends, multiple running backs, and things to offset that, but I think that’s the goal and we’re going to need that here over the last month is finding a really consistent contributor to be that third wideout or multiple guys that can fill in that void when it’s called upon.”