After a freshman campaign that saw Texas Longhorns wide receiver John Burt lead the team in receiving yards with 457 yards courtesy of a 16.3 yards per catch average, the widespread belief was the second-year talent was in store for a breakout 2016 slate.
But through three games, Burt’s potential emergence as the go-to target for Texas has been hindered by inconsistencies catching the ball — five early drops now overshadow the elite sprinter’s 12 receptions. As a freshman, Burt dropped only three passes all season.
John Burt makes catching the football look every bit as hard as Shane Buechele makes throwing the football look easy.— Geoff Ketchum (@gkketch) September 18, 2016
Through Texas’ first three outings, Burt has multiple drops in two of them with three drops against Notre Dame and another pair against Cal. To this point, Burt’s struggles haven’t had much of a negative effect on the ‘Horns, as Texas still topped the Fighting Irish despite a perfectly placed deep ball that bounced right off his hands that would have went for a touchdown.
If Burt had been able to secure that catch and take it the distance, the would-be 85-yard touchdown reception would have been the longest of his career and the ninth-longest passing play in school history.
Another was on a go route opposite his first drop, but a Shane Buechele pass was a bit under thrown and forced Burt to adjust and come back to the ball, while the third was a quick outside hitch and the pass was a bit too high. So you can argue two of the drops were understandable, but as most coaches will tell you, "if you can touch it, you can catch it."
The two drops against Cal came on a screen and a short hitch, in which Burt relied on his body to make the catch rather than his hands.
Interestingly enough, despite the drops, Burt still headlines what has become a deep and impressive receiving corps in yards with 175, an effort largely aided by his 72-yard touchdown reception against Notre Dame.
Hypothetically, if Burt had secured each of his five drops, regardless of if the pass was a bit off target or not, the 6’3 sophomore would have added about 160 yards — give or take — to his 2016 total.
This would place Burt within the top 15 nationally in receiving yards, as opposed to his current 122nd ranking. He would also be in the top 50 nationally in receptions with 17, rather than tied for 121st with 12.
Fortunately for Burt, he still has nine games remaining in an up-tempo offense that loves to stretch the field and attack deep with a gunslinger that has plenty of trust in his pass-catching ability.
“It’s just having that trust in him,” Buechele said via InsideTexas. “He’s a great player. We know he can catch the ball. It’s nothing different, it’s having the trust in him, and him trusting in me.”