Help Wanted: Davis Needs One More Go-to-Guy

Texas is still looking for a dependable third WR, Longhorn coaches say, and depth is thin at TE. Should we expect much variance from the program's recent reliance on three-wide receiver sets? And how productive can Texas be in a two-TE formation this season?

There's actually scholarship athletes listed at FB these days in RS-freshman Cody Johnson and senior Luke Tiemann (DT Roy Miller and MLB Rashad Bobino will also play FB in short-yardage and goal line situations), but the three-wide, one-back, shotgun look will remain the base for Texas' offensive, coordinator Greg Davis said.

"We're going to play predominantly with three wide receivers," said Davis, continuing the trend Texas began at mid-season in 2003. "We'll continue to play two tight ends with one back, and will continue to play some '21'', but, basically, we're going to go with three wide receivers."

Therein lies a dilemma: Just days from Saturday's season-opener against Florida Atlantic, Texas has but two WRs who have earned Davis' trust. FL Jordan Shipley and SE Quan Cosby have enjoyed superlative August camps, according to all reports. But the only constant among the backup receivers has been their inconsistency.

It was generally expected that big-bodied RS-freshman Malcolm Williams (6-3, 218) would hold down the starting assignment at SE but, for now, that job belongs to the diminutive Cosby. Williams finished camp listed as a co-starter with sophomore Brandon Collins at 'Sub B' (replacing the TE or FB in three-receiver sets). It is one of four offensive positions in Texas' initial depth that lists an 'either/or', indicating that either player is as likely as the other to occupy that spot on game day.

"A lot of those 'either/or' positions means we're looking for consistency," Davis explained. "It means we've seen something that really caught our attention. but we're still looking for consistency."

Williams was cross-trained at both outside receiver positions (SE, Sub B) during two-a-days, but may have hit the proverbial wall as a result of information overload.

"We may have put too much on him (by) cross-training him," Davis acknowledged. "Sometimes when their brain begins to lock up, their bodies don't react because they're not quite as comfortable. During the past seven practices, we put him at Sub B and let him stay there. He can still play 'X' (SE) if we need him to."

There are fewer blitz adjustment responsibilities at Sub B than at SE. For now, coaches have given themselves until Thursday to name a starter at Sub B although they may not announce it to players until just before kickoff.

"Both of them (Williams, Collins) will play during the course of the ballgame," Davis said. "We'll make a determination during the week (about the starter) based on how they practice."

Davis expects to play six receivers Saturday. The list would include backup FL James Kirkendoll and at least one true freshman SE (Dan Buckner or D.J. Grant).

Texas clearly does not have a pair of stretch-the-field TEs (a la David Thomas and Bo Scaife in 2003-04). But journeyman Greg Smith has been a pleasant surprise at TE, a spot thinned not only by Jermichael Finley's declaring early for the NFL but also by a couple of injuries (Josh Marshall, Ian Harris) Sophomore Blaine Irby is Finley's heir apparent, although both Irby and Smith are currently listed as co-starters.

"Greg brings a different element to the tight end position," Davis said. "Blaine is more typical of someone like David Thomas or Jermichael Finley. He can really run and stretch the field. I'm really encouraged by him. Greg is more of an anchor."

The Horns practiced 3:30 p.m. Tuesday (with the expressed intent that it would simulate the same mid-afternoon conditions as the Sept. 13 contest against Arkansas). The Horns return to practice late Wednesday afternoon.


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