Coming on: Texas' young wide receivers
Oct. 23, 2008
by Jonathan Mann, Texas Media Relations
Since Mack Brown arrived in Austin, the Texas wide receivers unit has featured a healthy balance of consistency and explosiveness.
The position has seen some greats occupy the depth charts in that time, and every season has included a solid collection of receivers. Today, a new group is looking to add their names to the extensive list of pass-catching producers that have donned the burnt orange on Saturdays.
Sophomores Brandon Collins and James Kirkendoll, along with redshirt freshman Malcolm Williams and true freshman Dan Buckner, all share a combination of youth and talent that has coaches and players alike excited.
"They all have good skill," said wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy, "but the thing that stands out about them is that they've got really good work ethics."
And after seven games, the hard work is starting to become production. In Texas' most recent victory over Missouri, the four combined for nine catches, 157 yards and two touchdowns.
For the season, the quartet has caught 33 passes for 366 yards and four TDs.
All of the receivers, with the exception of Buckner, have spent a full year on the 40 acres. In 2007, Collins and Kirkendoll gained in-game experience as true freshmen on special teams and offense. Williams, a versatile athlete who played six different positions in his career at Garland High School, sat out his first year on campus, taking a redshirt and using the time to hone his skills.
"I believe it helped out a lot," Williams said in review of his first year. "I truly believe that since I had that year to get ready like I needed to, as far as having timing with Colt [McCoy], it will help out a lot this season."
The young group certainly has not been without role models to admire and emulate. Current seniors Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley, as well as recent graduates Limas Sweed, Nate Jones and Billy Pittman, have all played a crucial role in the young trio's maturation process.
"That's the good thing about Texas," says Kirkendoll, who starred at Round Rock High School. "You've got pros coming through every year, you've got great players you play against in practice, so to sit behind Shipley, Quan, Limas, Nate and Billy, all of them, you learn different stuff every day."
Shipley, one of the group's mentors, recognizes their performance this season and the integral factor they represent in the offense's success so far.
"Whenever they make plays, it makes our offense a lot better," Shipley said. "They can take away one or two things but if we have a lot of guys making plays, it makes us pretty tough to stop."
Despite their youth, the group has been relied on collectively to fill the role of third wideout behind Cosby and Shipley. The position is a highly contested one, but the big picture concept is not lost on the young pass catchers.
"Even though there's only one spot open, we're all going to see the field and get playing time," said Collins, who leads the young crop with 15 receptions this season. "We're just going to try to produce as much as we can this year and take it from there."
No one is more aware of the receivers progress than QB Colt McCoy.
"We spent three nights a week in the summer," McCoy said of his practice regimen with the young players. "Nobody went home or on vacation, we were here working. That's starting to pay off."
Praise has come not only from the offensive side of the ball but from the defense as well. Junior cornerback Deon Beasley has lined up against each receiver in practice on numerous occasions.
"I think highly of all of those guys," Beasley said. "As practice went on, they've all progressed and become really good players."
For the young quartet, recognizing their accomplice role has been key to producing in the first half of the season.
"We're much better when Malcolm and I and the other young guys are making plays," Collins said. "As you can see, Quan and Jordan are doing great things this year, and we're just trying to do what we can to make this offense a complete offense."