How Texas football could use Mikal Harrison-Pilot like Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Deebo Samuel Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Among the bigger official visitors to recap from last weekend that is a prioritized target of the 2023 Texas football recruiting class is the highly touted four-star Temple athlete/wide receiver Mikal Harrison-Pilot. As one of the bigger skill position targets that Texas hosted on campus last weekend on either side of the ball, Harrison-Pilot was a name to watch during the festivities.

Second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian, new wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator Brennan Marion, and the Longhorns apparently gave Harrison-Pilot a memorable pitch during his official visit too. Texas apparently pitched Harrison-Pilot on playing somewhat of a Deebo Samuel-type role in this offense.

This is really intriguing considering the insane speed and versatility that this wideout/defensive back brings to the table. Harrison-Pilot has an extremely high ceiling on both sides of the ball thanks to his gifted physical tools and namely his 100-meter dash time of around 11 seconds.

But with Texas now recruiting Harrison-Pilot as a multiple skill position weapon on the offensive side of the ball, it now looks like they’re locked in on one spot for this CenTex stud.

And in terms of how Harrison-Pilot fits with the Longhorns with respect to the Samuel comparison, there are a few things to dissect here. First and foremost, it’s worth noting that Harrison-Pilot likely fits best in this Sark and Marion offense at the x-wide receiver spot, which is where sophomore Xavier Worthy is starring for this current Longhorns team.

Combine Harrison-Pilot’s 6-foot and 190-pound frame with his track speed and you get a wideout that is going to do damage at all levels of the field. He shouldn’t be limited to just one certain set of routes or one area of the field to work.

What are the ways Texas football can use Mikal Harrison-Pilot in a Deebo Samuel-type role?

The way that Deebo is used by the Niners’ staff as a do-it-all playmaker at wideout and running back is likely what Sark and the Longhorns pitched to Harrison-Pilot. And that’s our starting point for how Texas can utilize Harrison-Pilot in a similar fashion to how the Niners use Samuel.

There are so many ways that Harrison-Pilot could be utilized in this offense, whether it be as more of a do-it-all wideout or a running back out of the backfield.

Texas is able to most effectively open up the playbook with Worthy playing at the x-wide receiver spot to take advantage of his deep route tree and insane open-field speed and elusiveness. Harrison-Pilot’s skill set would allow him to do similar damage to opposing defenses out of the x-wide receiver slot.

Sark and Marion seem to notice the body control and open-field vision that Harrison-Pilot brings to the table that could really separate him as an explosive threat out of the x-wide receiver slot, similar to that of Deebo with the San Francisco 49ers. Deebo picks up yards in chunks after the catch thanks to that aforementioned open-field vision and elusiveness, which is something you can pick up on film from Harrison-Pilot.

Sark and the Longhorns would initially want to scheme Harrison-Pilot up to get the ball on glance and post routes that could take advantage of his ability to separate and allow him to work with space in the open field. Harrison-Pilot’s versatile route tree, separation ability, and insane track speed allow him to shake opposing defensive backs, especially from the first break or stem.

Doing damage to opposing defenses on intermediate and deep routes will also open up the offense to get Harrison-Pilot in space in other phases of the game. Sark would then have the space to get Harrison-Pilot out in the open field with room to run on closer plays to the line of scrimmage such as screens and jet sweeps.

You can see how much damage an explosive skill position weapon can do to opposing defenses when he gets room to run in the open field when looking at how head coach Kyle Shanahan gets Samuel out with room to run on sweeps and screens. Once Shanahan is successful in getting Samuel going in one phase of the offense, the rest of the playbook opens right up.

Shanahan is able to work with Samuel out of the backfield, mainly utilizing his speed and field vision to get to the edge and pick up yards in chunks. But he can also get creative with Deebo by motioning him around and finding him in open space at the line of scrimmage in the screen game.

Sark can use Harrison-Pilot in a similar fashion by giving him at least a couple of touches each game either in motion jet sweeps or hand-offs out of the backfield. That would fully maximize the versatility that Harrison-Pilot brings to the table and would constantly keep opposing defenses guessing as Sark continues to layer more and more concepts as the game moves along.

Utilizing Harrison-Pilot in screens, jet sweeps, run plays, and on intermediate routes out of the x-wideout slot, are just a few of the ways that he can be effective in this offense, though. His insane speed that we keep talking about makes Harrison-Pilot an obvious threat to take the top off opposing defenses, which is just the icing on the cake for the type of impact he can have on this offense.

Harrison-Pilot does a lot of his damage on offense for Temple High School on deep balls, which is where the body control and ability to high point the football and win contested 50/50 balls really comes to the forefront. That ability to high point the football and give Texas a true 50/50 ball threat out of the x-wideout spot would bring yet another dynamic to this Sark offensive scheme.

Imagine what Texas could do in this Sark offense if they had a true possession receiver on the outside starting out at the z (similar to Isaiah Neyor) opposite of Harrison-Pilot. Texas would now have double the number of wideouts that could reliably pull-down 50/50 contested balls.

Sark would likely be shooting for something similar here to the dynamic that the Niners have between Deebo and Brandon Aiyuk in terms of having at least two versatile wideouts that have the necessary catch radius and body control to both pull down 50/50 balls effectively. The duo of Deebo and Aiyuk makes life a lot easier for the Niners’ quarterback and could have a similar impact on this Texas offense.

It’s clear that there are multiple facets in which Texas can utilize Harrison-Pilot in a similar way to how Shanahan and the Niners use Samuel. Harrison-Pilot is an extremely versatile and gifted wideout that has a lot of potential in this Sark offense. And this pitch is definitely something that made an impact on Harrison-Pilot.

Comparing any prospective wide receiver recruit with the versatility of Harrison-Pilot to an All-Pro talent such as Deebo will obviously catch their eye. That appears to be what Texas was able to do with Harrison-Pilot as we know now just how big the plans could be for the Temple product in this offense.

This official visit with Texas last weekend looked like it really moved the needle for Harrison-Pilot and his camp. In fact, Texas might’ve made a big enough move last weekend that they are now at least neck and neck with other presumed frontrunners such as the Oklahoma Sooners and Houston Cougars in the race to land a commitment from Harrison-Pilot.

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Harrison-Pilot is set to take an official visit with the Cal Golden Bears this weekend, which could be his last trip of the summer recruiting season. We should get more clarity regarding Harrison-Pilot’s decision timeline once this official visit to Cal wraps up next weekend.