Young Receivers Making Big Strides

When the Longhorns beat Missouri, their offense looked nearly unstoppable. A big part of that was the involvement of the young receivers, who played a larger role Saturday than they had the entire season. But this leap in performance from Malcolm Williams, Brandon Collins and others may not have happened without some extra work behind the scenes...

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Texas quarterback Colt McCoy looked at his phone and saw that he had a text message in his inbox. It's not an uncommon occurrence, given the position of national prominence he's reached (in fact, after the Oklahoma game, the junior QB turned on his phone to find that he had over 120 messages waiting for him). But the sender was not a random well-wisher, it was one of his receivers.

"After practice, Malcolm (Williams) shoots me a text that says 'Hey, throw me some high balls. Let me work on it,'" said McCoy.

It was the Monday after Texas' 45-35 win over OU and Williams was displeased with his own performance in the game. Specifically it was a play from early in the contest that was bothering him. On the play, Williams streaked up the right sideline and McCoy saw him in one-on-one coverage with Sooner DB Brian Jackson. McCoy lobbed the ball deep, Williams got his hands on it, but he couldn't bring it in.

The play stuck with Williams, so he decided to do something about it.

"I felt that I needed to work on being more aggressive and going toward the ball. I texted Colt so we could work on that," said Williams.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, after practice was over, McCoy and Williams would work on high passes. Posts, flags, flys, Williams would run each and McCoy would toss the ball out of the reach of any potential defender so that Williams would have to go up and get it.

On Saturday, Williams went up and got it.

The Longhorns had a 14-0 lead on the Missouri Tigers and were looking to add more. Up until that point, Texas had been steamrolling the Mizzou D. But for the first time in the game, the Texas offense hit a snag. The Horns had the ball in Tiger territory, but McCoy was sacked for a 10-yard loss on first down. On second down the Horns managed to recover eight of those yards, but it still left them with a third and 12.

McCoy took the snap and ran through his progressions, only to find his primary, secondary and tertiary options all covered. But then he saw Williams beat his man on the post route. McCoy threw the ball deep, well above everyone's head, and Williams leaped up, grabbed it and came down with the 32-yard touchdown.

And it might not of happened without a text message.

"Those are just little things that go on behind the scenes," said McCoy. "That little bit of extra work, maybe it helped, maybe it didn't, maybe that was destined to happen, but you look back and think, 'Hey, maybe it did.'"

Whether or not it was the reason behind that particular grab, all of the work that Williams and the other young receivers are doing is beginning to show. Williams may have had the best catch, but the best performance among the younger guys came from sophomore Brandon Collins, who hauled in six catches for 76 yards against Missouri, more than doubling his total on the season. Most of those yards came on a 38-yard pitch and catch that was, once again, the result of chemistry being built between quarterback and receiver.

On the play, the Tigers came with a 'zero' blitz, meaning everyone plus the kitchen sink was making a bee-line for McCoy. The scheduled route for Collins on the play was a five-yard in...but Collins did not run a five yard in. Reading the blitz, the sophomore flanker instead cut inside on a slant, putting himself wide open in the space the linebackers had vacated.

McCoy didn't call the audible. It was Collins.

"He understood, when I was getting pressured, when he needed to break off his route and be 'hot'," said McCoy.

It's a route adjustment that Collins had worked with McCoy on for just such a situation, the kind of adjustment he's seen senior Jordan Shipley make 100 times.

"I learn from Shipley every day in practice," said Collins. "He helps me out with stuff like that, just my sight adjustments and everything that's going on in the offense, because he did play there (at flanker)."

The chemistry between McCoy and his senior receivers, Shipley and Quan Cosby, has been there from the start of the season, but now we're seeing the result of the work that the young receivers have done to develop that relationship as well and it bodes well for the future.

"We're much better when me and Malcolm are making plays, as you can see," said Collins.

Throw in players like sophomore James Kirkendoll and true freshman Dan Bucker, who pulled down a 51-yard touchdown pass late in the game, and you've got a receiving corps with a lot of potential.

But perhaps the best judge of that is a player who goes up against them every day in practice. Cornerback Chykie Brown -- another young gun who's emerging on this team -- has seen that improvement each step of the way and said that each has been learning at an impressive rate.

"I've seen a lot of improvement because they've got older seniors like Quan and Jordan to help them, what routes to run, how to read coverage and all that," said Brown. "They're coming on really good to be that young. They're going to be great receivers."

This coming weekend, McCoy and his wideouts will be tested once again as the Oklahoma State Cowboys come to town. Kickoff at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium is set for 2:30 p.m.

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