AUSTIN, Texas -- To understand how dire the situation is for Texas at wide receiver, just look at the Longhorns’ recruiting.
Texas has commitments from four high school wide receivers in the class of 2012 with the biggest prize, Dorial Green-Beckham, still on the wish list. And you can bet if Green-Beckham, the top receiver in the country, decides to come to Texas there will be room for him in the recruiting class.
But, even given that Green-Beckham has made an official visit, the odds are rather long he will be wearing burnt orange come fall. As for the four commitments -- Cayleb Jones, Marcus Johnson, Thomas Johnson and Kendall Sanders -- Texas might need every one of them.
For the first time since 2004, no Texas receivers were in the top 10 in the Big 12 in receptions per game or yardage.
By the end of the 2011 regular season, Texas was down to two reliable receivers -- Jaxon Shipley and Marquise Goodwin. Sure there were more on the roster, and even another, Mike Davis, who led the team in receptions.
But Davis proved to be hit or miss. It was only after he was demoted to the second string in the final week of the season that Davis ran with conviction after making a reception. So while Davis is immensely talented, he is not a player that the passing game should hinge upon.
Shipley, on the other hand, proved to be a model of consistency when healthy. The freshman, despite missing three games with a knee injury, led the team in average yards per game with 66 and was only five catches shy of Davis’ team lead.
Maybe more importantly, Shipley was a receiver the young quarterbacks could trust. David Ash, and to a larger degree, Case McCoy, knew when the ball went in Shipley’s direction he was either going to do everything he could to catch it or make sure if he missed it the other team couldn’t catch it.
A perfect example of that as the first series of the second quarter against Texas A&M when McCoy threw behind Shipley. But the receiver had the presence of mind to knock the ball down, saving a sure pick six.
As for Goodwin, he showed in the Baylor game what a threat he can be. And that is how co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin should continue to utilize him. With tunnel screens and quick slants, one missed assignment, and Goodwin has the speed to take it the distance.
Where all the receivers must improve is in their downfield blocking. With Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray in the backfield in 2012, there is no doubt Texas is going to do everything possible to get the ball into their hands in space. That means the receivers will turn into blockers on more plays.
Darrell Wyatt, the first year receivers coach, has a background in turning receivers into blockers. He was at Oklahoma when Adrian Peterson ran for more than 1,800 yards. So there is little doubt Texas will be better prepared in 2012 to block.
As for the young players coming in, they should get a chance to show their skills. Texas would like to utilize more three-wide receiver sets. Shipley and Goodwin should have spots in many of those sets. That means the 2012 players will have to compete with Davis, Miles Onyegbule and John Harris to get on the field.
Even if they don’t beat out any of those players, count on the newcomers providing some much-needed depth and explosiveness to a receiving corps that lacked both in 2011.