- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.
763dWilliam Wilkerson and Max Olson