While much of the talk this spring has been centered around the the progress of the two passers — Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger — it’s the pass-catchers that have arguably been the most impressive positional group thus far.
Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman has publicly praised the talented bunch of multiple occasions now, noting how impressed his was that the majority graded out as champions throughout winter condition. Herman also recently raved, “This is as deep a wide receiver group as I’ve been around.”
This is coming from a former wide recievers coach so Herman’s been around a talented pass-catcher or two.
During his first year in Austin, though, Herman is surrounded by a handful-and-a-half of talented wide receivers; so much so, that guys like redshirt freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and sophomore Lil’Jordan Humphrey and pushing for first-team reps.
According to a Horns247 report, Humphrey replaced Collin Johnson to take first-team reps after a while during Thursday’s practice, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering he’s taken advantage of the opportunities he’s been given under the new staff thus far. While Johnson is almost surely going to begin the season as a starter, there’s plenty to like about Humphrey’s chances to see the field often in 2017, such as his 6’5, 199-pound frame.
“The thing that stands out about LJ Humphrey is his size,” Herman said. “It’s tough when that guy bodies you up if you're a corner or a safety. It’s tough to get around him.”
It seems realistic to expect Johnson (6’6) and Humphrey (6’5) to be split opposite of each other during red zone situations next season at one point or another.
More notably, Hemphill-Mapps has reportedly been seeing time as the second-team slot receiver over senior Armanti Foreman and even ran with the first-team on Thursday, marking the first time all spring, per reports, that sophomore Devin Duvernay wasn’t the first-team slot receiver.
“Reggie has got great speed and quickness,” Herman said. “You can tell he’s played high school football at a very high level because he’s got a knack for route running and finding open windows in zones.”
Not to mention, along with Humphrey and Hemphill-Mapps making their presence in the two-deep felt, John Burt, Foreman, and Dorian Leonard are also heavily in the mix for reps, as is Jerrod Heard, who is reportedly the only receiver yet to be replaced with the first team offense at any point this season.
So yeah, Herman and wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer have plenty to work with and much to be pleased about.
As expected, though, with Herman being a stickler for perfection, he sees an area of improvement for this deep and talented group of wide outs.
“That whole position group has got to get tougher,” Herman said. “Really talented, but really not physically tough.”
“I was talking to Colt McCoy out there at practice today,” Herman added. “We were talking about wideouts, and he was ooing and aweing at how beautiful they looked out on the field, until I said they have work to do in the toughness department.”
Herman noted that the wide receivers are working with Mehringer on their toughness and physicality.
“Trust me, I’ve told the wide receivers. I’ve told Coach Mehringer. I’ve told Coach Beck. They need to get tougher, and they’re working on it. They want to,” Herman said.
“I asked Colt did you ever know or be around some of those tough wideouts, and he said, “Oh yeah. Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley. Those are some bad dudes.” And so, my challenge to our wideouts right now is go be a Quan Cosby or Jordan Shipley.”
Of course, special talents like Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley are just growing on trees, but the cupboard is plenty stocked with talent capable of making a special impact in 2017.
It is still, spring, though, so Herman and his staff have until September to get this praiseworthy group of wide receivers’ toughness up to standard.