The Texas Longhorns are losing junior wide receiver Xavier Worthy to the NFL next season — after helping lead the team to their first appearance in the College Football Playoffs, the deep threat declared for the 2024 NFL Draft less than 24 hours after losing to the Washington Huskies in the Sugar Bowl and is considered a potential first-round selection.
The 6’1, 172-pound speedster from Fresno, Calif. was a consistent threat in the passing the game the previous few years, making a name for himself with elusive speed, sharp route running, and home-run ability on any play. The wide receiver not only produced on offense, but special teams as well where he returned punts.
Xavier Worthy @ Texas pic.twitter.com/GaSs2L1Lo7— College Football Report (@CFBRep) December 4, 2023
A consensus four-star prospect ranked as the No. 62 player overall and the No. 8 wide receiver in the 2021 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Worthy initially signed with Michigan out of Fresno (Calif.) Central East, but received a release from his National Letter of Intent four months later and immediately committed to new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian.
The decision paid off for both parties as Worthy immediately became the best wide receiver for the Longhorns with 62 receptions for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021, single-season school freshman records in each category that earned Worthy first-team All-Big 12 recognition, Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors (the first Texas player to do so since Colt McCoy in 2006), and a spot on multiple Freshman All-American teams. Worthy’s top-end speed and electric ability in the open field helped him produce 15 plays of 20 or more yards, seven of which went for touchdowns.
Playing through a broken hand as a sophomore, Worthy’s production dropped as a sophomore to 60 receptions for 760 yards and nine touchdowns as he dropped seven passes and had issues tracking the football, but did begin to show promise as a punt returner in taking over that role with 15 punt returns for 146 yards.
Despite scrubbing Texas references from his social media, remaining noncommittal about a return, and dropping three passes in the Alamo Bowl loss to Washington, sparking a social media firestorm, Worthy did return to the Forty Acres for offseason conditioning to finally quash rumors about a potential departure.
Worthy bounced back as a junior with 67 catches for 883 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season with three drops against BYU serving as the primary blemish on a season that produced a significantly improved reception rate. On punt returns, Worthy emerged as a dangerous weapon with a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown in the win over the Cougars and a punt return touchdown called back via penalty in the win over the Cyclones that featured Worthy reaching 22.7 miles per hour, the highest speed of any player in college football this season. For the year, Worthy is averaging 16.1 yards per return with 23 returns for 371 yards, adding value to his NFL draft stock by proving that he’s an impact player in the return game.
Over the last three seasons, Worthy started 39 games in total. In that time, he created an extremely decorated award shelf — he was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2022, 2021 first-team All-Big 12, 2021 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, 2021 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, and Freshman All American.
He set numerous Texas records and currently ranks third all time in career touchdown receptions. In total, Worthy caught 197 passes for 2,755 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also passed for a touchdown and returned a punt for a touchdown during his tenure in burnt orange. His contributions to the offense were undeniable.
Xavier Worthy! 75-yard punt return touchdown.— CJ Vogel (@CJVogel_TFB) October 28, 2023
Texas on top early. pic.twitter.com/ScKKbTjF9D
The departure of Worthy completely changes the outlook for Texas next season. All signs suggest the wide receiver corps for Texas will look significantly different next year, likely without every pass-catching starter from this year — A.D. Mitchell, Jordan Whittington, and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders. Without Worthy in burnt orange, the burden of production will fall on Houston transfer Matthew Golden, rising sophomore Johntay Cook, and other inexperienced wide receivers like consensus five-star signee Ryan Wingo.