"A lot of them have gotten discouraged," Jeffery reported Monday. "I sat them down when it was 14-14 during the Missouri game and said, 'You're pouting. It needs to stop right now. This may come down to a shootout. And one of us is going to have to make a play.' I tried to keep them focused and not worried about their playing time as much as being ready when their time is called. Coach (Mack) Brown puts it best when he says, 'Freshmen want to play but seniors want to win.'"
It's time to quit talking about the pass catchers in terms of their inexperience, Jeffery added, with an intensity that bodes well for this Saturday's showdown at Texas Tech if his focus and resolve can filter down to the not-so-young receivers.
"We're going into our seventh game of the season," he said. "We've been through two-a-days, we've been through the spring. We're not young any more. We've been in hostile atmospheres at Arkansas and OU now. We expect Tech to be a lot like Arkansas in terms of the crowd. I think we've seen pretty much everything that can be thrown our way, so it's time to drop the title of being young."
Texas ranks No. 16 this week in total offense (442.17 ypg) thanks to a ground game that is No. 2 nationally at 293.5 ypg. But the passing attack is almost as grounded, rated No. 103 (of 117 D-I programs) by averaging just 148.67 ypg. Texas generated 103 yards through the air Saturday, but 48 of those yards came courtesy of backup RB Ramonce Taylor's flea flicker to Young.
OC Greg Davis' insisted last week that the emphasis on the running game has translated into fewer snaps (and thus fewer opportunities for experience) this season for WRs, but a look at the passing numbers from last year to this year don't point to an obvious casual effect. Texas attempted 145 passes through the first six games of 2003 compared to 137 so far this season. That translates into just 1.3 more passes per game last year, certainly not a big enough difference to explain the passing game's deterioration.
Part of the problem, Jeffery said, has to do with the fact that so few of the receivers have followed his example of gaining valuable game day experience on special teams. Heading into his senior year, Jeffery had blocked three punts while recovering two blocked punts for TDs.
"That's one thing that I wish some of the younger receivers would do is get on special teams and be effective that way," Jeffery said. "That bought me time to hone my skills. Roy (Williams), B.J. (Johnson) and Sloan (Thomas) were here so I understood the situation."
Now, it's commonly understood among Longhorn opponents that Texas is of little threat to beat them through the air. And there will be eight or nine guys in the box each week until the WRs can prove they are a viable threat to consistently move the chains. For now, each passing attempt seems larger than life for some of the receivers.
"I was telling (WR) Coach (Bobby) Kennedy yesterday that we've gotten to a point where we've created a monster where every pass is so crucial," Jeffery said.
Coaches and players have talked for weeks about how the passing game clicks during practices but somehow fails to transfer to game day.
"We can break out at any moment," Jeffery said.