Sitting with teammates and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Kyle Flood for an Alamo Bowl press conference on Tuesday, Texas Longhorns sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy had a chance to shoot down speculation about whether he’ll remain in burnt orange and white in 2023.
“I’m just focused on the game on Thursday,” Worthy said.
Worthy fielded the question after more than a month of discourse about his future after displaying obvious frustration with the state of the Texas passing game late in the season and then removing references to the Longhorns from his Instagram page.
Worthy’s bio still doesn’t include anything about playing for Texas, though his feed does.
A decline in production helped fuel the speculation — Worthy caught nine fewer passes this season, had 305 fewer receiving yards, saw his yards per catch drop by three yards, and had three fewer touchdown catches. The overall numbers indicate he was less of a big-play threat, too. In 2021, the Fresno product had four plays of more than 50 yards with a long reception of 76 yards. This year, Worthy’s longest play was 46 yards, one of only two plays that went for more than 40 yards.
And it wasn’t just the numbers telling the story. Worthy’s body language often conveyed a high level of frustration late in the season, manifesting in questionable effort at times to make catches over the middle or run routes with physicality.
Following the regular season, Sarkisian declined to answer a question about whether Worthy is happy at Texas, choosing instead to focus on his dedication to becoming a better wide receiver.
“I think the one thing about Xavier is this — he’s a highly competitive young man and from the moment he arrived on our campus, he came to work and he came to work to earn an opportunity to play, came to work to become a starter. He came to work to be the best receiver he could be, whether that was in our conference or in the country.
“So I think the guy’s got a high sense of competitiveness and drive to be the best and he works that way every day. And so sometimes when you don’t get the actual result of it, that can become a sense of frustration. I would much rather have a receiver that’s frustrated that he didn’t contribute more to a win than a guy who’s content to go on the field and playing and the ball not coming his way, because I think he values his ability to get open. I do, too. I get it.”
During bowl preparation, Texas redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers worked to build his rapport with Worthy in the passing game.
“With X, we kind of went back to the basics, like we were talking about before,” Ewers said on Tuesday. “These bowl practices, you really just kind of get that feel back, whether it’s deep balls or just short game and stuff like that.”
Ewers also admitted that he’d thought he had everything figured out after his big performance in the Red River Shutout of Oklahoma. Subsequent struggles forced Ewers to mature and increase his commitment to improving as a quarterback.
“I’ve said this all along; I think the past couple weeks he’s probably thrown the ball and we’ve executed the passing game better than we have for the last couple months, quite frankly, and that’s encouraging because I think that a lot of that is his buy-in, his want-to, his commitment to it. Not that he wasn’t committed before, but there’s another level of commitment that you go to as a player,” Sarkisian said on Wednesday.
Now the question is whether Ewers can execute on Thursday in the Alamo Bowl.
“I feel like this game is a stepping stone to what we’re going to do next year. I feel like this is going to show the country what we have going on at Texas,” Worthy said, perhaps hinting at a return.
Worthy’s future might remain in question, at least in regards to his willingness to address it directly, but following the departure of redshirt sophomore Hudson Card to the NCAA transfer portal and then ultimately to Purdue, Worthy was able to replace the No. 8 jersey he’s worn at Texas with his more familiar No. 1.
“I look like my normal self. I missed it,” Worthy said.