The Candidates: Malcolm Williams, senior; Desean Hales, junior; Marquise Goodwin, junior; Brock Fitzhenry, junior; Mike Davis, sophomore; Greg Timmons, sophomore; Darius White, sophomore; John Harris, redshirt freshman; Chris Jones, redshirt freshman; Jaxon Shipley, freshman.
Returning Starters: Williams, Goodwin, Davis
What It Looks Like: Davis returns after setting a Longhorn record for most receptions by a freshman. He's arguably the offense's, and potentially the team's, most talented player. Williams is a huge outside receiver who added even more weight in the offseason. Other than a few breakout performances, he hasn't been able to exploit his sizable talent on the offensive end, though coaches believe he's arguably the top non-returner special teams player in the country. At 5-foot-9, Goodwin is the Longhorns' fastest player and a track star. Texas coach Mack Brown has said Goodwin has the talent to catch 80-100 passes in a season. Hales played at times last year, and was a star last spring. Perhaps not as high on size/speed ratio as some of the others, he has a talent for getting open and catching the ball, which shouldn't be overlooked. White, who came in with Davis, is another prodigious talent and a matchup problem because of his size and leaping ability on the outside. Timmons is a possession receiver who may have been lapped by some of the younger talent. Harris and Jones redshirted a year ago, but appear to be ready to contribute on the outside and in the slot, respectively. Shipley isn't actually practicing yet, though we listed him here because he's already graduated from high school and is attending practices and meetings, taking notes and preparing to battle for the staring slot job.
Ideal Situation: Davis emerges as a star, White takes over at the other outside position, Goodwin drops track to practice in the spring and Shipley comes in to join Goodwin in the slot in the fall. Davis has had a wonderful spring, and has added muscle to his 6-2 frame. White, meanwhile, gives the Longhorn quarterbacks something they didn't have last year: a target who wins one-on-one jump balls. Never underestimate the power of giving a quarterback a target they can just throw the ball up for. White is that guy. White's emergence would also allow the Longhorns to bring along and develop Harris, who has had a strong spring, while saving Williams' energy for the special teams. Last year, coaches conceded that Williams — who plays on every special teams unit — was worn out from carrying such a heavy receiving burden. Goodwin has great talent, much of which is based on the fact that he's the fastest player on the field. But it's no secret that he comes back rusty after missing spring practice, and therefore doesn't get the most out of that ability. With the new coaching staff, this is even a more important spring for him to attend. Shipley is, quite simply, an elite slot receiver, and will be from the moment he steps foot on campus. He's bigger and stronger than his brother, is a great jumper, has slick moves in the open field and shares his brother's penchant for route running.
What We Would Like To See: See ideal situation, with a dash more Harris and some better opportunities for Hales. Davis, White and Shipley makes a great starting three, and adding Goodwin as a fourth to stretch the field is a great option. Harris, simply put, is an athlete. He looks like a high-level receiver and is smooth for his 6-3 frame. As for Hales, I just believe that there's always a market for a guy who can get open and catch the ball, period. He doesn't wow physically, but he potentially could have helped the Longhorns in clutch third-down situations a year ago.
What Will Probably Happen: Wide receiver is probably the most talented, and deepest position on the team. Davis will start, and Shipley would appear to have an opportunity in the slot immediately. After that, things are wide open. Williams and Goodwin have the experience, but will have to fight off challenges from White, Harris and Jones. Expect some combination of Davis, White, Williams and Harris on the outside, allowing the Longhorns to redshirt incoming freshman Miles Onyegbule, who has vast size potential. Miles's brother, Max, started at Kansas as a 6-4, 205-pound player, and ended at 6-5 260. Miles is 6-4 200 right now. In the slot, Goodwin could pay for missing spring practice, as Jones has made the most of his opportunities by displaying outstanding speed and quickness. Goodwin and Jones will likely battle it out for the second slot position behind Shipley. Add in new receivers coach Darrell Wyatt, and his emphasis on physical play and blocking, and this should be a well-rounded group as well, one that appears to be much better than last year's version.