Brenden Schooler is new to the Red River Showdown, but he’s no stranger to intense rivalries.
Texas’ graduate transfer slot receiver played in the annual rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State three times as a Duck. Schooler said playing in the matchup helped him understand the intensity of nationally known rivalry games, like the Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl.
Yet three months ago, Texas fans never would have imagined Schooler donning burnt orange and white and preparing for his first battle for the Golden Hat.
Schooler announced his transfer from Oregon to Arizona in late December after spending four seasons with the Ducks, but missed most of the 2019 season with a foot injury. He anticipated playing for the Wildcats in 2020.
But when the Pac-12 initially announced it would not play football in early August, Schooler looked elsewhere to play football. He landed in Texas two weeks before the season started.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking to say the least … because once the Pac-12 came out and said they’re not going to have a season, (I had) to find somewhere to play,” Schooler said. “(I didn’t) want to wait an extra year (to play), so once (I) hit the portal, it was a waiting game. Minutes felt like hours, and hours felt like days. I’m just so thankful that Texas came in and gave me this opportunity.”
Coaches and players challenged Schooler to learn the entire offensive playbook quickly and develop a reliable chemistry with his teammates. He met with one of the team’s graduate assistants to learn the offense and hand signals as quickly as he could and frequently went to senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger with questions.
Schooler said he developed a confident on-field relationship with Ehlinger over the next two weeks as he was brought up to speed. He learned when Ehlinger expects him to break on his routes, how to adjust his route depending on the down and distance, and how Ehlinger expects him to read the secondary’s coverage.
Two weeks later, the coaching staff tasked Schooler with moving from “Z” receiver, his natural position, to “H” receiver when several Longhorns suffered injuries at the position.
Ehlinger said Schooler’s effort in learning the playbook at two positions helped build trust between the quarterback and receiver and praised his ability to learn the position so fast.
“A lot of guys can't even learn the whole offense down with extreme detail over a whole season, let alone in two weeks,” Ehlinger said.
As impressed with Schooler’s football intelligence as Ehlinger is, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said the receiver's experience helped him learn a new offense so quickly.
“I think those guys that have been coached in different systems that are similar to ours, the learning curve changes, so I’m not too surprised,” Yurcich said. “He’s a very intelligent person.”
Saturday’s matchup in the Cotton Bowl won’t be anything like what Schooler experienced in the rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State. However, if Texas plays to its potential, Schooler expects to leave his first Red River Rivalry with a victory.
“This week, the team just needs to come out with that mindset that we know we’re capable of,” Schooler said. “We need to not let ourselves get in the way, and we need to take care of our business. And once we do that we’re going to be completely fine.”