Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong knew that freshman Lil'Jordan Humphrey was simply a football player when he added the high school running back to his 2016 recruiting class in January, but he probably didn't expect him to make an impact early at the crowded wide receiver position.
And so while training camp for the 'Horns has dished out its share of injuries to numerous units on the team, the wide receivers have been no exception.
In addition to the recent transfer of sophomore DeAndre McNeal, Texas has seen juniors Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe, as well as freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps suffer various ailments, which has resulted in former three-star athlete Lil’Jordan Humphries seeing an early uptick in reps. But Humphrey’s presence on the field isn’t simply due to injuries, attrition and nothing more -- he’s a name worth remembering among an abundance of young receiver talent in Austin.
Presumed starting quarterback Shane Buechele will have his share of options at receiver, headlined by John Burt, Collin Johnson, Armanti Foreman and Devin Duvernay. But as already seen in training camp, injuries, attrition and the need for quality depth in the veer-and-shoot offense – which almost always utilizes three, if not four receivers – is essential. As a 6’5 target – the second-tallest receiver on the team – and a high school history of making plays in open field, Humphrey could be used in a multitude of ways over the next two or three seasons.
Interestingly enough, when Charlie Strong recruited Humphrey out of Southlake Carroll, he wasn’t quite sure how he’d use him.
"I said it when we recruited him. I said I don't know what he is, but I just know he's a football player," Strong said during a recent press conference.
Now after having Humphrey – who compiled 2,170 total yards and 22 total touchdowns as a running back and receiver as a senior – on campus for a couple months and weighing out where his talent would fill a need most appropriately, it appears Strong sees Humphrey’s future as a receiver.
"He's out at wide receiver," Strong said. "He has really soft, you know, big hands, catches the ball well and can run."
Though his hands are what garnered Strong’s praise, it’s Humphrey’s unique running ability for a talent of his stature that could make him such an asset for a Texas offense seeking more explosive plays. As evident from his time in the backfield as Southlake Carroll, Humphrey is a shifty runner with impressive lateral quickness and changes direction without losing a step.
In short, he’s tremendously crafty with the ball in open space and runs with a purpose, lowering his shoulder pads and embracing contact when there’s no room for elusiveness. This combined with his sheer size allows Humphrey to often fall forward after being tackled, giving him team an extra two or three yards, which can often be the difference in moving the chains and punting.
A temporary downside to Humphrey’s current ability is his straight-line speed, with and without the ball, as he certainly has some speed and his long strides are noticeable, but he doesn’t have that breakaway speed Burt and Duvernay possess. While he likely sees some reserve reps behind Burt or Johnson throughout the season, his current skillset may be better suited in the slot, as Texas’ offense will often rely upon quick passes leaving the receivers to make plays in open field, something Humphrey is adept at doing.
Because of his height, smaller nickel corners would have their hands full in one-on-one situations, which could make Humphrey a dangerous threat in the red zone if he earned those opportunities. Additionally, considering Humphrey’s basketball background prevented him from ever really lifting weights, the Texas receiver has now jumped up to 222 pounds after registering at 199 following his senior season and 210 on National Signing Day.
Strong said he likes what he's seen so far from Lil' Jordan Humphrey. "He's so talented. He'll only grow and get better." #Longhorns— Horns247 (@Horns247) August 13, 2016
At this rate, Humphrey could add a few more pounds and find reps as a reliable receiving tight end if he struggles among the depth at receiver.
In any case, there’s some tremendous upside and potential as to how Texas could use Humphrey’s in the offense going forward if continues to impress. Sure, he may not be the household name many expect Burt, Johnson and Duvernay to become, but he’s a name certainly worth remembering.