Texas Football: Xavier Worthy among nation’s elite route runners

Xavier Worthy, Texas football. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Xavier Worthy, Texas football. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

Texas football has one of the most loaded receiving corps in all of college football heading into the 2023 season. The 2023 preseason AP All-American junior Xavier Worthy and former Georgia Bulldogs junior transfer AD Mitchell lead the way for Texas’ receiving corps.

Worthy and Mitchell are the two most important wideouts for the Longhorns offense this season. Worthy, the former of those two wideouts, is looking for a bounce-back campaign after regressing statistically year-over-year last fall.

Worthy was a Freshman All-American during his true freshman campaign in 2021. The 2022 season didn’t live up to the hype for Worthy following a spectacular Freshman All-American campaign. Worthy dealt with a broken hand for the second half of last season, leading to more drops down the stretch.

But it looks like Worthy is healthy and primed for a big 2023 campaign. This is a “contract year” for Worthy, so he’ll have a chip on his shoulder this fall. Worthy is fighting to get his first Big 12 title with the Longhorns this season and looking to boost his 2024 NFL Draft stock.

Texas football WR Xavier Worthy is an elite route runner

One of the most impressive parts of Worthy’s skill set is his technical route-running ability. Worthy is among the most elite route runners in college football in 2023. Route running will be a calling card for Worthy, among his major strengths in the 2024 NFL Draft.

NFL Draft Buzz said Worthy is an “impressively skilled route runner” who “shows excellent discipline and makes sharp cuts”.

Texas fans that have watched Worthy for the last two years know how good of a route runner he is. We should appreciate watching his insane cutting speed and technical ability running routes while he’s still on the Forty Acres.

Texas likely to utilize Worthy away from the deep passing game more in 2023

Eric Henry of Horns247 did a good piece on Aug. 22 (paid content) breaking down how Texas could utilize Worthy outside of the deep passing game more often this season than last year. It was clear that Worthy struggled in the deep passing game, but he still produced at a high level in the short and intermediate passing game.

Worthy couldn’t maximize his best skills since Sark had to get him involved in the deep passing game due to the season-ending injury to boundary receiver Isaiah Neyor. The Wyoming transfer Neyor was going to be Sark’s deep threat on the boundary last season. But Worthy had to fill that role once Neyor went out with an injury in fall camp.

Henry points out that Texas can get Worthy frequently involved in the offense in ways other than the deep ball since Steve Sarkisian has other weapons at wideout to get over the top on opposing defenses. Sark can utilize bigger wideouts, such as redshirt junior Isaiah Neyor and Mitchell, in the deep passing game this fall.

Meanwhile, Sark can utilize Worthy in the short, intermediate, and screen passing game to weaponize his elite route running and elusiveness in space.

Worthy is elite running technically-advanced routes in tight areas and on the boundary

Despite Worthy’s struggles with the deep ball last season, he was still extremely dangerous in the short and intermediate passing game. Worthy was one of just three Big 12 wideouts last season to have at least 150 receiving yards and one touchdown on short (0-9 yards) and intermediate (10-19 yards) routes, per PFF.

Worthy was so dangerous and such a good route runner that he could still be one of the most productive wideouts in the Big 12 last season, despite grading out among the lowest receivers in the conference on deep passes.

Sark weaponized Worthy in multiple ways and in key areas of the field last season, namely the red zone. Worthy ran some of the craziest routes to get open touchdown catches last year. Just look at the insane whip route he ran to burn the opposing Iowa State DB last season.

Another impressive route from Worthy in the red zone last season came on this 13-yard touchdown catch in a huge win over the Kansas State Wildcats. Worthy ran a beautiful corner route to get open for Quinn Ewers to find him for the score.

The post corner is one route Worthy executes better than at least 99 percent of other wideouts in college football. He also burned a West Virginia DB on this post corner route for a 15+ yard score last season.

Worthy has shown the ability in the last couple of years to run many other technically-proficient routes that require an extremely high level of quickness and cutting ability. This juke route against Texas Tech in 2021 is a good example of how slippery Worthy is one-on-one, even with limited room to operate near the goalline.

Worthy can burn opposing DBs running stick, dig, out, slant, crossing, post routes, and many more. When you have the quickness, lightning-fast change of direction, agility, and straight-line speed that Worthy brings, there aren’t many routes he can’t add to his route tree.

Stats back up Worthy’s elite short and intermediate route running

The proof is in the pudding for Worthy statistically regarding his ability to execute a wide range of key short and intermediate routes at a high-level last season, play-in and play-out. Per SIS Data Hub, Worthy led all Power Five receivers last season in yards per route run on routes in front of the line of scrimmage (4.5). Those routes included in that metric are flat, slant, out, comeback, and curl.

It’s also worth noting that Worthy led all Big 12 wideouts last season in points earned per route on those same five aforementioned core short and intermediate routes.

Sark essentially has every type of weapon he could want in the receiving corps to operate at a high level in the passing game this season. He’s got the ultra-advanced technical route runner in Worthy, two deep threats in Neyor and Mitchell, and the maestro working between the numbers in redshirt senior Jordan Whittington.

Texas also has depth in the receiving corps behind the top four of Worthy, Mitchell, Whittington, and Neyor, with Casey Cain and true freshman Johntay Cook II. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the All-Big 12 junior tight end JT Sanders.

4 standouts Sarkisian praised at the conclusion of fall camp. dark. Next