Texas will return a veteran group of receivers to the field under new position coach Les Koenning. They lose their leading receiver last year (Mike Davis) to graduation and the NFL draft. But everyone else is back in 2013. In total, Koenning inherits 120 receptions, 1,441 yards, and 6 TDs in production from the 2013 season. There are four main targets sharing that experience:
I know who Jaxon Shipley is at this point.
Although he has more catches and yards than any returning Longhorn receiver, he’s not particularly likely to be the leading receiver in the 2013 season. Shipley has finished second in receptions and yards in each of his three seasons at UT, and his receiving efficiency has actually dropped from his freshman season in 2011 to now, which could very easily be a byproduct of the quarterback situation and the talent around him. Shipley was a volume target for David Ash/Colt McCoy who has shared the ball with Mike Davis and Marquise Goodwin. With those players playing at the next level, Shipley is still going to share targets, and isn’t an ideal top target at the Division 1 level.
He should rebound from a down 2013 where he scored just one time, and posted a career low yards per reception average. He is set to graduate following the 2014 season as a four year starter at receiver for the Longhorns.
Sanders ended up being really involved in the offense at the end of the season, and could be one of the names who can step in as the leading receiver for Texas in 2014.
Sanders did some kick returns over the course of the 2013 seasons and was pretty effective overall, averaging 23.8 yards per. His receiving averages have been less promising to date, but it is a good sign that he was starting by the end of the year.
He has two years of eligibility remaining and this is the point at which Sanders will be expected to provide some return on his recruiting promise. He has been used primarily underneath the coverage to date, and more in a “get him involved” type role. Fortunately, not every Kendall Sanders play in 2013 was a high percentage completion. He will see an expanded role this season.
Johnson is going to step in at the X receiver position for Mike Davis, and will be the beneficiary of many of the best matchups the scheme can provide a receiver. I would bet on Johnson as the Longhorns leading receiver in 2014. A two-sport athlete in high school, Johnson is a star on the track, as well as a talent on the football field.
Johnson is a bit slight for the position, but has plenty of speed and plays the ball well. His 15.9 yards per reception average comes with an asterisk regarding limited playing time, but he’s the kind of player for whom you want to scheme the ball into. A couple of wide receiver screens, an end around, and a drag route every now or then should complement the downfield stuff where he will earn his keep. Johnson can make a defense play for play too much man coverage.
A fifth year senior who has been buried on the depth chart, Harris has been productive when his number has been called.
The main thing in Harris’ favor is that he has size that the other guys in the Texas receiving group do not have. Harris has struggled through some injuries and hasn’t been consistently available. A fourth receiver doesn’t get on the field much, but when he does, it tends to be in situations like this one against Iowa State. Or this one against New Mexico State. Size matters.
Harris provides UT an alternative if Kendall Sanders fails to run with the starting receiver job, and he’s legitimate competition if he can remain available.
The top receiving recruit in the 2013 class, but did not record a reception last year. Warrick missed the second half of his senior year of high school with a knee injury and spent last year working his way back into playing shape. The 5’10” target is in the mix as a third or fourth receiver for the 2014 season.
In addition to the players profiled above, Texas signed four receivers in the 2014 class. None are expected to play right away in a crowded position group. Overall, the Longhorns are returning a strong group of receivers to the field in 2014. They are searching for that one 800 yard guy that can carry the passing offense and open up lanes for the runners to come through.