Texas’ game-tying 18-yard touchdown and 2-point conversion receptions against Texas Tech on Saturday may have taken six seconds, but it has taken much longer than that for senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s wide receivers to gain his trust.
“I think the biggest thing with trust between a quarterback and receiver is being on the same page all the time,” Ehlinger said in a Tuesday teleconference. “Knowing the playbook and understanding the different variations or adjustments that can happen with different coverages, and that’s the way to build trust.”
Ehlinger and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Joshua Moore already seem to have established a winning connection through the first two games. Moore sprinted 78-yards to the end zone on the Longhorns’ first play of the season against UTEP, and he caught three touchdowns from Ehlinger on Saturday in Lubbock.
The duo’s success this season is not a product of their respective athleticism, but their communication on the field, which they worked to strengthen over the summer.
“Almost every day of the week, we would get together, all of the receivers, and we would just throw routes to each other,” Moore said. “Just building the chemistry that we need to be successful this year.”
The relationship between a quarterback and his wide receivers is symbiotic, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said, adding that even one small miscommunication can result in a significant mistake.
“They depend on one another,” Yurcich said. “You can’t have a quarterback have a good day or have a good season or have a good game without good receiver play. And receivers, it’s the same way. They go hand and hand.”
The Longhorn offense, which has averaged 61 points in the first two games, is stacked with receivers. Moore, junior Brennan Eagles and graduate transfer Brenden Schooler were all key contributors last Saturday.
Texas’ wide receivers have accounted for 44 receptions, 641 yards and 11 touchdowns in just two weeks. Ehlinger said he’s proud of the Longhorn receivers for their performances this far, but the offense isn’t at full strength yet.
“(I) think we have a lot of room for improvement,” Ehlinger said. “We have a ton of talent in that room, and I’m looking forward to continuing to get better with them.”
Sophomore receiver Jake Smith will return from injury to join the group of wideouts playing this weekend against TCU. Ehlinger will get another weapon when redshirt freshman receiver Jordan Whittington returns from his knee injury.
Not every receiver will get the ball, though. That’s where trust comes in, head coach Tom Herman said.
“You want to earn the trust of a quarterback? Go out and play really hard,” Herman said. “Be in the right place at the right time. Don’t bust. When you’re supposed to run a fade, don’t run a slant. … Quarterbacks tend to gravitate toward guys like that.”
Moore has been one of Ehlinger’s main targets in the last two weeks, but he said his relationship with his quarterback extends past game day.
“I look at Sam as a brother. I’m looking forward to the success we have this year,” Moore said. “Sam’s a hard worker. To have anybody back there behind the seam like him, I mean any receiver would want that, so I’m thankful for Sam as well.”