In the pass-happy Big 12 Conference, NFL-caliber receivers find their way onto rosters more often than not. Michael Crabtree, Jordan Shipley, Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon, Ryan Broyles and Ryan Swope are only a handful of recent pass-catchers who shined during their collegiate careers before moving on to the professional level.
For the Texas Longhorns, All-Conference type receivers have been hard to come by in recent seasons, but the 2013 season could see a couple of new names emerge from the fold.
In continuation of the 'Horns position breakdowns, we will take a deeper look into where the production may come from in Texas' newly implemented spread offense.
Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley are the undisputed No. 1 and 2 options in the Longhorns' growing passing game, leaving quite a few vacant spots in the rotation.
The senior Davis and junior Shipley are the show ponies for quarterback David Ash and have been the unquestioned playmakers since they first arrived on campus.
When healthy, Shipley has been the most consistent option for the Longhorns as the go-to intermediate receiver, while Davis has improved his deep threat potential on a yearly basis, finally getting over the proverbial hump last season.
Shipley recently suffered a hamstring injury and is expected to miss some time, meaning Texas will need all hands on deck to alleviate any shortcomings from his absence.
Davis and Shipley accounted for 49 percent of the receiving yards last season for the 'Horns, in addition to 13 of the 25 passing touchdowns. In a word, the two pass-catchers are absolutely critical to Texas' passing fortunes.
Three of a Kind
If you are looking for a glimpse of the future at wideout, look no further than a trio of sophomore receivers in Kendall Sanders, Marcus Johnson and Cayleb Jones.
All three received very limited looks in their freshman campaigns, enough to warrant some consideration for the third starting receiver position vacated by Marquise Goodwin.
Jones' recent run-in with the law could has him indefinitely removed from spring football, and any further punishment has yet to unfold. This opens the door even wider for Sanders and Johnson, both of whom will have to take the next step in consistency.
Sanders has the open-field capabilities to have an immediate impact, but Johnson has been equally impressive in catching the deep ball, though his inconsistencies could have him trailing Sanders by a slim margin.
Double Dose of the Injury Bug
Bitten by the injury bug multiple times during their careers at Texas, John Harris and Bryant Jackson will have something to prove this season. Both have flashed brilliance in limited action during various springs and falls, but with the inability to keep off the injury report, their true production potential has been masked and curtailed significantly.
With depth a concern at receiver, Harris and Jackson could provide a decent, veteran presence among a throng of young pass-catchers still gathering their feet.
The (Tight) End Game
A huge blemish in Texas' offense has been at tight end as the Longhorns have been unable to develop a true threat at the position since the days of Jermichael Finley.
The 'Horns will have Greg Daniels and M.J. McFarland returning to the roster, and they will be accompanied by JUCO transfer Geoff Swaim.
What impact can be had from the tight-end position remains to be seen, but inexperience can no longer be a leaning post for any shortcomings.
In fact, John Harris could get some looks as a flex option if the other three cannot live up to the standard.
Daje Johnson could very well be Texas' most intriguing offensive weapon this season.
In addition to serving as a ground threat on speed sweeps, Johnson can make an impact in the screen game as well. As long as the sophomore can be found in space, the speedster has the ability to score from virtually anywhere on the field.
Johnson caught 19 balls for 287 yards and a touchdown last season, posting one of the highest average yards per catch of any receiver.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, Texas is still very much unproven behind Shipley and Davis, although the receiving ranks are stacked with numbers and talent.
With the Longhorns moving into a spread offense, passing numbers could swell significantly, but who will be the benefactors?
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