Andrew Beck isn’t walking out of the tunnel at Darrell K Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31 when Louisiana Tech comes to town.
As is the case with a small army of the Texas Longhorns 2018 starters, Beck’s time in burnt orange and white is now in the rearview, tasking Texas with replacing a two-time team captain and a first-team All-Big 12 selection. Of course, that’s far easier said than done, but it seems that the torch has already been passed to Cade Brewer, a junior who owns just three starts, but has seen action in 24 appearances, collecting 11 receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns along the way.
“Cade’s got a lot of huts under the belt if you will,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said at the front end of spring practice. “He’s played a lot of football. His freshman year, he was our starting tight end for most of the year. He got thrown into the fire pretty early so we’re confident in him.”
The role Brewer was once thrown into as a freshman is the same one he’s now adopting as a starter in Beck’s absence, and it’s a transition that the Austin native has made fairly smoothly thus far. That said, Herman admitted that the Horns will miss Beck, an expected reality when losing a team captain and all-conference talent.
“Cade’s been doing great. We’re going to miss Andrew Beck,” Herman said following Texas’ scrimmage last Saturday, per Inside Texas’ Joe Cook. “He was a two-time captain that was first-team all conference, and a guy that’s probably going to get drafted. Cade’s played a lot of football, unfortunately, as a true freshman. You can tell he’s added a lot of strength and mass. I think he’s 255 now. He played at 235 his freshman year, 230 maybe. There’s no doubt we’re going to miss Andrew.”
More recently, Herman echoed his previous praise on Wednesday as Brewer continues to flash his upside as a pure pass-catcher, which is why Herman and his staff elected to offer the former SMU pledge in the first place.
“Great,” Herman said on Wednesday when asked how Brewer has been performing. “He made an unbelievable catch today in two-minute drill that reminded me of the game we went to when we first got hired, they were playing Westlake, and he reached over a guy and caught it off the guy’s back or something like that. I said ‘all right, we’re going to offer that kid a scholarship.’”
Brewer’s hands were never in question, though, helping him haul in 850-plus yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016 as a senior at Lake Travis, where his revered receiving prowess often allowed the Cavaliers to utilize Brewer in the slot as Texas did with Lil’Jordan Humphrey last season.
After signing with Texas in 2017, Herman did, however, question the size and physicality of the then-210-pounder, which, as noted, is another area Brewer has addressed throughout his two years on the Forty Acres, adding 40-plus pounds to his frame.
But let’s not forget, this is a talent who, praiseworthy pass-catching and added bulk aside, spent last spring as an observer after tearing his ACL in practice down the stretch of his freshman campaign.
As one could expect, it was unclear just how much of his athleticism Brewer would return on the other side of the season-ending injury, but it appears that box, too, has been checked.
“Absolutely,” Beck told BON at the Texas Pro Day when asked if Brewer has his athleticism back following the ACL injury. “He recovered from the knee injury really well. I went to practice on Monday, got to watch him run around a little bit. He knows the spot, he knows the offense. He’s a really smart kid and I think he’s confident in his knee again, running around, watching him make plays. He’s doing really well. I think he’s going to fit into this offense just fine and pick up right where we left off.”
Pass-catching, bulk, and athleticism considered, though, Beck hauled in just 28 receptions in 2018; 13 fewer than the seemingly seldom-utliized Devin Duvernay (41) and only one more than backup freshman running back Keaontay Ingram (27).
For Brewer, this means that more often than not, he’ll be required to do more than simply run routes as a receiving threat. In Herman’s offense, he’ll be required to block.
Brewer is making positive headway to that end, as well.
“It’s really good, he’s a physical guy,” Beck added when asked how well Brewer was blocking. “That’s what that spot needs is somebody that can run around and hit... I know in this offense, if you can’t block, you can’t play, and Cade can so I think it’s going to be very productive for him.”
And Beck’s praise wasn’t merely a former teammate bragging about the next man up. Herman has taken note of Brewer’s improved efforts in that aspect of his game, as well.
“His blocking continues to get better,” Herman said on Tuesday. “He takes a lot of pride in improving that and he’s come light years from where he was.”
On paper and in practice, the 6’3, 250-pound Brewer is beginning to check the boxes required to ultimately solidify himself as Beck’s successor. And better yet, if the stars align ideally, Brewer boasts more star upside than Beck ever did, which is high praise for a prospect tasked with replacing an All-Big 12 talent.
But what most substantially separates Beck from Brewer? That would be 27 starts and 27 appearances.
There’s no substitute for general inexperience in a role he’s filled just three times at Texas, but that, too, is a box Brewer can eventually check. We just have to wait until the 2019 season begins.