A Change of Plans

Once the deepest unit on the 2007 Texas Longhorns, the wide receiving corps is getting thinner and thinner with three receivers (Jordan Shipley, Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman) suffering injuries this summer. Texas wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy and offensive coordinator Greg Davis talk about what the Longhorns plan to do now that they've been forced to go to option B -- or C, or D, or E...

Heading into the summer of 2007, Texas wide receiver coach Bobby Kennedy found himself with a surplus of talent. He was placed in charge of the deepest unit on the team and, according to offensive coordinator Greg Davis, the best group of wide receivers on a Texas team since Mack Brown and co. first set foot on the 40 Acres.

Kennedy now finds himself hurrying to get his young backups ready as three of his top wideouts suffered injuries this summer. None of the three injuries were serious, with senior Limas Sweed hurting his left wrist as he caught himself while stretching out for a ball, senior Billy Pittman hurting his shoulder falling down during a red zone drill and junior Jordan Shipley tweaking his hamstring during summer workouts, but the minimal nature of the injuries doesn't change the fact that the season is now less than two weeks away. There's a very good chance Texas will have to play some very young players on gameday.

On Monday after practice, Inside Texas asked Kennedy what he would say to his young receivers if it's the TCU game (September 8th) and the Horns are still down three wideouts.

"The thing I would say would be the young guys need to get ready. The great thing about the University of Texas is you can recruit great players and you have depth. We just have to get those guys ready. They're on scholarship too, so we've got to get them ready to roll," Kennedy told Inside Texas. "Of course, you'd love to have those guys back, too."

Kennedy spoke excitedly about the receivers that are healthy and getting a chance to step up because of the injuries.

"I'm excited about some of the other guys. Nate Jones, Quan Cosby, now they've got to step up and carry some of the load, but I think they're ready to do it," said Kennedy.

However, the players Kennedy spoke most excitedly about were his three true freshman receivers, Malcolm Williams, Brandon Collins and James Kirkendoll.

"They're all three really bright guys and they've learned the offense extremely fast, so I'm encouraged by that," said Kennedy. "There's going to be some butterflies, being in front of 85-90,000, but they all have really good hands and they're willing to block. I'm really encouraged by what they've done in practice."

Williams is working as a split end, Collins is a slot receiver and Kirkendoll is a flanker when all three are on the field.

And they will be on the field. Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis indicated that all three are likely to play in 2007, especially due to the current rash of injuries. Davis also talked about which of the three has looked the sharpest in camp.

"The guy that has made the most plays, consistently, is Brandon Collins," said Davis. "He's done a lot of things playing in both the slot and outside, but we've settled on him in the slot position."

Davis also said the experience that those three are getting in practice is the one silver lining to this dark cloud.

"At some point you're going to need them all and they would not have gotten the reps they've gotten with Colt if the injuries had not occurred. That's a benefit of being forced to play the young guys," said Davis.

But will Texas be forced to play the young ones?

On Friday, Sweed told Inside Texas that he wanted to be ready for the opener.

"We've got a great strength staff, great trainers. In there doing a lot of things and be ready for the opener," said Sweed on Friday.

However according to a source inside the Texas program, while Sweed's injury, a micro-fractured wrist (initially reported as a sprain), would only keep him out for a couple of weeks, the Texas coaching staff will likely hold Sweed out of the opener against Arkansas State as a precautionary measure.

Pittman displayed the same optimism that Sweed did after he fell awkwardly on his shoulder, saying in a release from Texas: "I have faith in our doctors, trainers and strength staff that they will get me back as soon as possible, hopefully for the first game."

But he's largely expected to get the same treatment as Sweed, ensuring a much more healthy receiving corps when No. 22 TCU rolls into town.

Ironically, at this point it appears the oft-injured Shipley is the most likely to play. Davis was very non-committal on Monday, refusing to answer any questions about how much the junior receiver is participating in drills. But a month before August camp, right after he tweaked his hamstring, Shipley told an Inside Texas source that he would only need four weeks to get going again and Shipley was observed moving around with ease and kneeling to hold for starting kicker Ryan Bailey during the first two days of August camp before practices were closed.

Indications from practice are that he's the healthiest of the three and may get the start against Arkansas State. If that's the case, your likely starting three at receiver to open the 2007 season would be Jones at SE, Cosby at FL and Shipley in the Sub-B (slot).

The injuries to the three wide receivers also raise the question of whether or not the defensive backs need to back off in practice to prevent further injuries to the wide receivers. But Davis said there's no need for the defense to slow down in practice.

"Limas got hurt and nobody touched him. He just landed funny. Billy's was in a red zone drill when he got his and Jordan was a hamstring before camp started. So really it's not from the contact even though camp has been physical," said Davis.

Davis said that the spirits amongst the wide receivers is still high, despite the injuries.

"This has been a fun group and the good thing is that the guys who've been nicked up, they'll be back," said Davis.

They will be back, but how soon? Each wants to be ready, and likely could be ready if necessary for the September 1st opener, but will the three walking wounded actually see the field? That remains to be seen.

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