Sure, there were plenty of players with experience, but for the second consecutive year, the Longhorns had to replace one of the Big 12's top wideouts. But while the Longhorns had Jordan Shipley, already a 1,000-yard receiver, to replace Quan Cosby a year ago, this year, there were no such proven superstars.
At the same time, the coaching staff felt good about a group that included two seniors and explosive players in Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin. When DeSean Hales emerged as a top-notch player in the spring and James Kirkendoll had a huge summer, it appeared that Texas would be set at the position.
But once fall practice started, it became apparent that the Longhorns' top receiver was probably a true freshman. Lanky with great hands and outstanding elusiveness and speed, Mike Davis didn't catch any passes in the Longhorns' season opener, but snagged 16 passes over the next two-and-a-half games for 183 yards and two touchdowns. When Davis was hurt against UCLA, the receiving group lost a player capable of taking a short pass and turning it into a big play. When healthy, Davis was a near lock for six catches per game, and was on pace to shatter the UT receptions record.
Kirkendoll has developed into Texas's most consistent threat. His 23 catches and 288 receiving yards lead the Longhorns in both categories. But neither his receptions per game, nor his receiving yards per game is enough to put Kirkendoll in the Big 12's top 10 in either category. The last time Texas didn't have a receiver in either category was 2004, when Texas had one of the worst passing offenses in the league.
Williams has emerged as a big-play threat who still needs to develop consistency. He has 14 catches for 204 yards. Goodwin (17-171) has big-time speed but hasn't quite been able to utilize it in a major way just yet. John Chiles (8-123) and Hales saw their playing time diminish with the emergence of Davis, while freshman Darius White has also seen some time.
Tight end has seen a ton of injuries, but the staff talked extensively about Barrett Matthews heading into the season, a tight end who ran a sub-11 100-meter dash.
But Matthews hasn't been a great blocker, and almost all of the passes directed to he and H-back Greg Smith have been short dump-offs. Combined, the two players have 13 catches for just 64 yards. Matthews did have a touchdown catch against Texas Tech. Converted tailback Chris Whaley would seem better equipped to catch a short pass and make yardage, but Whaley has yet to truly see the field.
Overall Grade: B-
The wide receivers have been the best group on offense so far this year, boasting a deep and talented group. There are still some problems there, from the lack of an established playmaker to the team's struggles at running routes on short situations.
Still, by themselves, the receivers are probably a B. But the tight ends have struggled to get seals and haven't made key blocks in the zone running game. I would also like to see a tight end like Matthews utilized down the seams of the defense more, where he can use his speed to make an impact.