Shane Buechele has plenty of options when he drops back to pass.
The freshman quarterback can dump the ball off to Jake Oliver in the flat, or toss it over the middle to Armanti Foreman. He can look to junior Dorian Leonard near the sideline, and if he’s under duress, there is always the option to chuck the ball downfield to sophomore Jerrod Heard or freshman Devin Duvernay.
When the Arlington product takes the snap from under center, one of Texas’ receivers can be counted on to make a play.
“With our offense, what we do schematically, there are plenty of plays to get people the ball,” Buechele said. “We have great athletes on our side of the ball, so being able to throw it to any of them and see what they can do is a great thing.”
Texas’ running game has gotten the majority of headlines this year, and for good reason. Running back D’Onta Foreman has dashed his way into consideration for the Heisman Trophy, ranking No. 4 in the nation in rushing yards.
But the impact of Texas’ receiving corps cannot be understated. The group has helped mightily with Buechele’s progression in his first year as the Longhorns’ signal caller, providing a security blanket when things go awry.
The strength of Texas’ wide-receiver group is its depth. While the Longhorns don’t feature a receiver in the top 150 in the nation in receptions this year, 13 players have caught a pass from Buechele. Eight have caught over ten balls, and six different players have receiving touchdowns.
“We like to spread the ball around,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “A lot of times, some people do have that feature receiver. But we tell our receivers they’re going to get their chance.”
The position’s depth has created stiff competition in the receivers’ room. There’s only one ball to be caught at a time, with at most five receivers are on the field. And on most plays, the Longhorns display just four wide outs along with Foreman in the backfield.
But despite the battle for playing time and receptions, the Longhorns insist there is little friction between the receivers. Whatever tension that may have existed, has faded into competitive collaboration.
“It’s kind of like a competitive mindset in [the receivers room],” Leonard said. “All of us in there are like brothers, so you try and compete with them. But we also try to motivate each other to be better every day.”
Texas’ two top receivers on the outside are guys who entered the year with no college receiving experience. Duvernay came to Austin in the summer following his de-commitment from Baylor, and Heard spent 2015 as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback.
Heard and Duvernay faced steep learning curves entering fall practice, but have combined for six touchdowns on the year alongside 29 receptions. With blazing speed and improved route running, the pair looks to be Texas’ future on the outside.
“The first thing that jumps out about [Duvernay] is his speed,” Gilbert said. “He’s bought into what we’re doing and he’s worked extremely hard… He’s done a really good job of catching up and lessening the learning curve.”
The Longhorns may not feature All-Big 12 receivers like Baylor’s K.D Cannon or Oklahoma State’s James Washington. But when the burnt orange receivers hear their name called, they are ready to answer the bell, no matter who is on the field.
“We all want to be the guy to make the play, but when one of us makes a catch we’re all out there celebrating,” senior wide receiver Jacorey Warrick said. “We push each other and we’re going to keep getting better.”