Texas Longhorns: Jake Oliver

Editor's note: This is the first part of a weeklong series breaking down Texas’ most important spring position battles when the Longhorns begin practice in two weeks.

Moving on: Texas is losing, statistically, one of the best wide receivers in its program’s history in Mike Davis. He leaves Austin ranking No. 4 in the Longhorn record books in both career receptions and receiving yards, and fifth in receiving TDs. And imagine what he could have done had Texas enjoyed a little more stability at the quarterback position during his four years. He started 38 games and brought the deep threat needed to stretch Big 12 defenses.

The contenders: We know what Texas has in reliable longtime starter Jaxon Shipley. No reason to worry about him. And you could argue that Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson aren’t really competing with each other for snaps. They seem like logical choices to be the No. 2 and No. 3 guys in this unit, at least on paper.

Among those vying with Shipley, Sanders and Johnson to prove they should see the field in 2014: John Harris, Jacorey Warrick, Montrel Meander, Jake Oliver, Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe, Dorian Leonard, Roderick Bernard and Garrett Gray.

And don’t forget Daje Johnson, the versatile weapon who focused on receiver in 2013, and the injured Bryant Jackson, who will miss spring practice. Even if a few of these wideouts leave for playing time elsewhere, it’s going to be a crowded receiver room this fall.

Moving forward: What makes this a battle is the stunning number of young backups who will compete for playing time this fall. There’s plenty of time for this number to change, and it will, but Texas could have as many as 14 scholarship receivers on the roster this fall.

Several of the incoming freshmen will redshirt, that much seems certain, but who knows what the Longhorns can expect from the rest. That’s the upside of signing so many wideouts with different skill sets. Throw them all onto a practice field, see which ones improve and stand out, and play the best of the best. That’s a luxury new receivers coach Les Koenning gets this fall.

Prediction: Many will point to Foreman and Joe as immediate contributors, and they’ll get a shot. But the trio of second-year receivers -- Warrick, Meander and Oliver -- will catch folks by surprise and find meaningful roles.

What’ll be fascinating to watch this spring is how the new staff puts Daje Johnson to use, and whether he can get his act together after two suspensions last season. If he does, he’s got a chance to become a nationally known and feared playmaker.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley aren’t practicing, and that just might be a good thing.

As strange as it sounds, Texas’ top two wide receivers spending the first week of fall camp sidelined ended up proving beneficial for the Longhorns offense. Their absence created opportunity for a receivers group full of unproven talent.

Davis had surgery for a hernia and Shipley underwent a procedure to address a hip injury. Neither ailment is serious, and both wideouts were in pads and catching passes by the end of the week.

[+] EnlargeKendall Sanders
AP Photo/Eric GaySophomore Kendall Sanders has gotten extended time with the first team with injuries to Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley.
Their absence is more precautionary than anything, and at some point in the next two weeks they’ll get back into team drills and 11-on-11 work.

But the point is this: Neither truly needed the practice reps. Their younger backups most definitely did.

“With Mike and Jaxon being limited early, that’s going to force the guys to be out there with David [Ash] and see how they can do with pressure on them,” Texas coach Mack Brown said before camp began.

How’d they fare? Sophomores Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson slid into the spots held down by Davis and Shipley last week. They combined for two receptions in 2012. One of them will likely have to start this fall.

That guy might not be Johnson, who suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during practice Monday. There's no timetable for his return, but UT head athletic trainer Kenny Boyd is hoping Johnson will be back "before the end of camp or soon after."

That’s not necessarily a damning blow for the Texas receiving corps, but Johnson made a good impression during his week with the first-team offense.

“I think Marcus has been making huge strides from where he was in the spring,” Ash said. “I'm really excited just because with the nature of the offense and what we're doing now, he will have to be a big part of it. He’s got to make plays for us and understand that when some of our primary receivers are covered or doubled, he's going to be the guy that gets the ball.”

There’s no doubt Sanders is ready for a larger role after recording two catches for 15 yards in 11 games as a true freshman. The 6-foot, 187-pound wideout is as well-rounded a target as the Longhorns have when Davis and Shipley aren’t on the field and appears to be the favorite to become Texas’ No. 3 receiver.

But they weren’t the only beneficiaries at receiver last week. Take the top two guys out of the equation and everyone gets bumped up the totem poll, including the newcomers.

“It’s really helped us to be forced to look at the freshmen,” Brown said. “Jacorey Warrick has done some good things, and it’s been fun to watch him. All of those young ones have shown ability, but we probably wouldn’t have got them many snaps if Jaxon and Mike were out there.”

That Warrick is earning early praise is impressive considering his rapid recovery, as he missed most of his senior season at Houston Cypress Falls after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee in October.

The former ESPN 150 recruit looks as speedy as ever and hasn’t lost a step since that injury. He and freshman Montrel Meander worked with the No. 2 offense last week while Jake Oliver and Chevoski Collins started off with the third-string receivers.

Those four fresh faces will continue to be evaluated in the next two weeks, and several could see the field on Aug. 31 against New Mexico State. But what would that mean for Bryant Jackson and John Harris?

Both are fourth-year players seeking to finally break through and establish their roles. Harris has experimented at tight end but spent the week as one of Case McCoy’s favorite targets as an outside receiver. Jackson moved over from defensive back and played in the slot with Daje Johnson and the No. 1 offense.

“The guys brag on Bryant Jackson a lot,” Brown said. “He’s an older guy who’s been around, a blocker and special teams guy that’s making some good plays for us.”

With those freshmen on the rise, it’s practically now or never for those juniors. They benefitted from Davis and Shipley sitting as much as anyone.

And yet, you could make a case no Longhorn is affected more than Ash. The starting quarterback didn’t mind one bit, as he enjoyed working on his rapport with a variety of receivers.

“There is a silver lining to it,” Ash said. “Obviously, we want Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley out there getting work, but there is a silver lining that we are going to develop some depth with these young wideouts. They’re going to get some experience now and there’s no doubt it’ll pay off, because you never know what’s going to happen in the season.”

If either of Ash’ top two targets go down at some point this fall, that will likely mean trouble. But a full week of preparing for that possibility can’t hurt.

Meet the Freshmen: WR Jake Oliver

July, 2, 2013
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He broke the state record for career receptions at Dallas Jesuit, but these days that doesn’t mean a thing for Jake Oliver. The slate has been wiped clean for the ESPN 300 receiver signee.

[+] EnlargeJake Oliver
John Albright/Icon SMIJake Oliver is excited about playing in Texas' up-tempo offense this fall.
Now that Oliver is a Longhorn and in the middle of summer workouts, the star ratings and broken records are meaningless. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver has a new reputation to establish.

And he’ll have to do quickly. Texas suspended receivers Cayleb Jones and Kendall Sanders for the season opener, and that means the Longhorns’ three incoming wideouts have an opportunity to prove they deserve immediate playing time.

We caught up with Oliver before he enrolled at Texas to discuss his expectations for 2013, the new Texas offensive scheme and the game he’s got circled on his calendar.

HornsNation: What kind of gains did you make with your workouts this spring?

Jake Oliver: I’ve improved my strength a lot, and I’ve built up a little bit. I’ve improved on my speed and agility, and I’ve been working with [Texas A&M signee] Jordan Mastrogiovanni and [Iowa State signee] J.D. Waggoner. We’ve really pushed each other and made each other better this offseason. I think that’ll really show when we step on the field this year.

HN: What do you think of the opportunity to be mentored by Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis this summer? Those are two pretty good veterans to learn from.

Oliver: Yeah, I’ve gotten very lucky this year. Mike will be a senior and Jaxon will be a junior. To have their experience on the team and to be able to learn from them is great, because they didn’t have that when they were my age.

HN: Those two became starters as true freshmen. Is that the must for you? What do you expect this fall?

Oliver: I would love to play as a freshman, but it’s honestly not in my hands. I just have to work as hard as I can and do as much as I can, and hopefully I get that shot. If I don’t, I’m still going to work just as hard and work my way up to prove I can play.

HN: Back in the fall, you mentioned you’d love to see Texas go back to the spread offense. A few months later, they decide to transition to up-tempo and put more receivers on the field. How satisfying is that?

Oliver: I can’t wait. I’ve had that my entire high school career, so to have that offense in college, I honestly think this can be the best, most exciting offense in college football. I’m glad they switched to it. That’s the [way] old Texas is remembered that had a lot of success. We can have a lot of success in this offense.

HN: You got to know Tyrone Swoopes well during this process. How surprised were you to hear that he’s pushing for immediate playing time?

Oliver: I watched Tyrone in the spring game, and he did pretty well. It’s funny, I’ve been saying this all along and people doubted it: He’s a true quarterback. I’ve believed that since Day 1. I really believe in him, and I hope we can work together. I respect David Ash. David is a great quarterback and he’s 100 percent the starter right now, but to grow with Tyrone in these next couple years will be a great thing.

HN: You chose Texas over Oklahoma but had more than 50 offers. What kind of negative recruiting did you hear from other coaches about Texas?

Oliver: I always heard, over these last couple years, that Texas will never be back and they’re down. I’ve heard all that stuff. The fact of the matter is, the last non-SEC school to win a national championship was Texas. They’ve been to two national championships in the past 10 years. Texas competes with the best of the best. I bought in and fell in love with the program.

HN: How do you feel about the cultural change you’ve signed up for in coming to Austin from an all-male, private Catholic school?

Oliver: It’s going to be weird to even have girls in my class. I haven’t had that since I was in eighth grade. It’s going to be a weird sight to see, not that I mind that at all. I love Austin and everything about it. It reminds me of Dallas but is a little bit different, and I’m a city kid.

HN: Being a Dallas kid, what’s a bigger deal: Your first game under the lights at DKR, or your first Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl?

Oliver: Oh man. Uh, I don’t know. They’re about the same. A lot of my friends are going to Oklahoma, too, so they talk to me about that all the time. That’s just such a special game and the biggest rivalry in college football. Ooh, it gives me goose bumps just talking about it.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week, I look at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First down: Few O-linemen in 2014 class


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AUSTIN, Texas -- Time and again over the past two years, Texas coach Mack Brown has been true to his word: The best players, no matter the age or experience level, will play.

That has led to 34 true freshmen -- the most in FBS -- hitting the field in the past two seasons. Texas’ hand was forced in some respects. It had to bridge a talent gap created by recruiting misses, particularly those in the 2009 class. Now, the result is that the gap has been somewhat plugged. Or, at the very least, there is a prevailing thought that field is full -- 19 starters return -- leaving little room for any of the true freshmen in the 2013 class to make a significant impact.


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Texas lost five previously committed players in its 2013 recruiting class, something that never used to be a problem for the Longhorns. But they'll finish with the Big 12's top class in 2013, featuring eight ESPN 300 signees.

Each of the following players have officially sent in their letters of intent, and here's who's heading to the 40 Acres.
It's a really small class for Texas with just 15 signees after signing 28 players a year ago and 22 and 25 the previous two seasons. But the Longhorns are sitting at No. 14 in our ESPN class rankings, down a spot from where they began the day.
Only three days after Texas coaches first contacted a Washington State commit, he has flipped his verbal pledge and will sign with the Longhorns.

Three-star Amarillo (Texas) Palo Duro receiver Montrel Meander confirmed to HornsNation in a text message that he's committed to Texas.

Meander originally committed to playing safety at Washington State on Jan. 20, but Texas receivers coach Darrell Wyatt stunned him by showing up at Palo Duro on Friday to inqure about his interest in visiting Texas.

After initially saying he was sticking with Washington State, Meander flew to Austin on Saturday for an official visit. Now he's the 15th member of Texas' 2013 recruiting class and its third receiver pledge, joining Jake Oliver (Dallas/Jesuit) and Jacorey Warrick (Houston/Cypress Falls).

As a senior at Palo Duro, Meander played safety and running back. He rushed for 572 yards and eight touchdowns this fall. Prior to committing to Washington State, Meander took official visits to San Diego State, UTSA and Colorado State.
To gear up for 2013 national signing day, HornsNation’s William Wilkerson is breaking down every commitment in the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Wide receiver Jake Oliver, Dallas/Jesuit | 6-foot-4, 203 pounds

Jake Oliver
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comFour-star Texas commit Jake Oliver could make the Longhorns' rotation as a freshman.
Committed: Feb. 15, 2012

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Signing day primer: Texas

January, 23, 2013
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Team needs: Texas hit the recruiting trail this year seeking improved depth on the offensive line and at linebacker. Its line got almost no production from backups in 2012, and an inexperienced linebacker group started six players last season and endured struggles throughout. With only nine seniors in 2012, the Longhorns don’t have many other holes that need to be filled by this class of recruits. The most irreplaceable cogs are safety Kenny Vaccaro and defensive end Alex Okafor. Both are potential first-round NFL draft picks whose production will be tough to match.

Help is on the way: The offensive line questions have been answered. Texas is set to sign one of the nation’s best classes up front with five commits, including No. 1 center Darius James (Killeen, Texas/Harker Heights) and No. 4 tackle Kent Perkins (Dallas/Lake Highlands). Contra Costa (Calif.) College tackle Desmond Harrison joined the class this week. Texas also landed ESPN 300 outside linebacker Deoundrei Davis (Cypress, Texas/Cypress Woods), who enrolled early and should contribute as a freshman.

Other key commits: Two more early enrollees, ESPN 150 lineman Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas/Celina) and Butte (Calif.) College tight end Geoff Swaim, should play right away. Texas also has pledges from ESPN 150 defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights), receiver Jacorey Warrick (Houston/Cypress Falls) and cornerback Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop). The Longhorns will pair Warrick with Jake Oliver (Dallas/Jesuit), who broke the Texas state record for career receptions.

Other key targets: Holding on to Robinson is crucial. He has taken official visits to USC and Alabama and could make a late-second flip on signing day. With a pledge from Harrison, the biggest remaining priorities are finding another running back and wide receiver. ESPN 150 receiver Sebastian LaRue (Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica) and Ole Miss running back commit Peyton Barber (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) could visit in January.
Welcome to The Heard, HornsNation’s weekly in-depth look inside the never-ending world of Longhorns recruiting with news, notes and interesting tidbits on the latest happenings around the program. We’ll release this every Thursday.

Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.

A few of the notes in today's The Heard:

  • Robinson ready to end process
  • In-home visit key for Harrison
  • Oliver values time at Army Bowl
  • The latest on Campbell
  • Would Hammad commit?
  • Perkins focused on one sport
  • 2014 DB gets junior day invite
  • Davis wouldn’t mind moving around
  • TCU commit will visit Texas
  • 2014 DB unsure of UT


Read The Heard after the jump.


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SAN ANTONIO - - Longhorns offensive tackle commitment Kent Perkins (Lake Highlands, Texas/Lake Highlands) is usually the big man on campus, figuratively and literally.


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All-America game roundup: UT commits 

January, 7, 2013
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Texas was as well represented as ever in the nation’s biggest postseason all-star games this weekend. Of the Longhorns’ 13 verbal commits, nine were selected to suit up for one last game before beginning their college careers.

Seven went to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, though linebacker Deoundrei Davis didn’t play due to his torn ACL. Top-ranked commit Darius James shined at the Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., and his high school teammate Naashon Hughes went to the Semper Fidelis All-America Game in Los Angeles.

Here’s a rundown of how the future Longhorns looked in their respective games:

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Welcome to The Heard, HornsNation’s weekly in-depth look inside the never-ending world of Longhorns recruiting with news, notes and interesting tidbits on the latest happenings around the program. We’ll release this every Thursday.

Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.

A few of the notes in today's The Heard:

  • Update on Texas' four early enrollees
  • Commits impressing at all-star games

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Postseason stat check: Texas commits 

December, 26, 2012
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The Texas high school football season officially came to an end on Saturday. That day proved to be a big one for 2014 quarterback commit Jerrod Heard, but he’s not the only future Longhorn who thrived in 2012.

[+] EnlargeJake Oliver
Miller SafritWR Jake Oliver, a Texas commit, had a remarkable season.
Receiver commit Jake Oliver delivered another historic season. He finished No. 1 among Class 5A receivers in the DFW area in both receptions and receiving yards, and in doing so set the new state record for career receptions with 308. That’s good for second-best in the national record books, too.

While the season stats of Tyrone Swoopes will earn some scrutiny, there’s no questioning what Heard did in his junior year. The Denton Guyer standout finished with 4,228 total yards of offense and a combined 52 touchdowns (35 rushing).

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Nobody has played more true freshmen than Texas over the past two years.

Eighteen hit the field in 2011. Another 16 in 2012.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireMack Brown's 2013 recruiting class might not be needed to contribute early because of the Longhorns' young roster.
In 2013, few teams will play less newcomers than the Longhorns. The simple fact is Texas, despite the record, is loaded with returning talent at every position. And those few freshmen who did not play at the start of their careers are starting to appear more and more ready to step up now.

"In fact, all of them have looked really good," said Texas coach Mack Brown of the redshirts participating in bowl practice. "I think that's a great class. For us to have played 16 of them and the ones that didn't play looked good. So it will be fun to watch those guys through the spring."

That fun might have to be tempered with a few hard decisions when it comes to mixing and matching where to put the bodies. But that there finally are experienced bodies in place bodes well for Texas, even if doesn’t for those in the incoming class of 2013 who want to play right away.

The grumblings probably won’t be too loud, however, simply because there are not that many voices to be heard. Texas has 12 commitments from high school players with quite possibly only one more high school prospect becoming a commitment, Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco). If that remains the case, this will be the smallest class of high school players Brown has signed in his tenure at Texas.

Texas has and is expected to continue to try and supplement this class with junior college players. De'Vondre Campbell (Hutchinson, Kan./ Hutchinson CC) is a possibility at linebacker and Geoff Swaim (Chico, Calif./Butte CC) is coming in as a tight end. There might be more to come. And that further clogs up the playing pipeline for next year’s true freshmen.

Whether or not Campbell signs with Texas, the linebacker spot should have enough bodies so that Deoundrei Davis (Cypress, Texas/ Cypress Woods) is not pressed into early playing time. Texas should have a healthy Jordan Hicks back as well as returning starter Steve Edmond and the emerging Peter Jinkens as the first group. That leaves Texas with a strong group of reserves in Tevin Jackson, Dalton Santos, Kendall Thompson, and Demarco Cobbs. Thompson has started in the past and will get a shot. Cobbs also has started but might be seen as more of a third down specialist in the future.

Texas has three defensive backs committed and that is a spot where the Longhorns will be weakened by the departure of safety Kenny Vaccaro. But moves have already been made to shore up that weakness. Cornerback Quandre Diggs, one of Texas’ best defensive players, has been shifted to safety during bowl practice

"[Defensive backs coach Duane Akina] always likes to move them around and if you have more corners than safeties for next year, you're losing that toughness that Kenny Vaccaro brings and that confidence and leadership; so who will be the guy to step in there and to help that?" Browns said. "So Quandre has played about every day at safety, he knows what to do, and the other end of it."

Adrian Phillips played significantly better in the second half of the season at safety than the first. Mykkele Thompson should also be more prepared. At corner, Carrington Byndom is back, Duke Thomas is available and Josh Turner can play both. While the defensive back position is not loaded, there appear to be enough veteran players to keep Texas from having to dip down and grab someone like Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop), Chevoski Collins (Livingston, Texas/Livingston) or Erik Huhn (Cibolo, Texas/Steele).

The defensive and offensive lines return everybody except defensive end Alex Okafor. Cedric Reed, Reggie Wilson and Shiro Davis will serve as Okafor’s replacement and Jackson Jeffcoat’s backup. So it is unlikely Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas/Celina) will see any time. Defensive tackle is Texas’ deepest position and with Malcom Brown commanding more and more playing time there is not much sense is using A'Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, Texas/ Arlington Heights) early.


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