Last Saturday in Mobile, Alabama, college football’s senior class took the field for the last time in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. What has become known as the college football all-star game, the Senior Bowl is a chance for top talent from around the country to spend a week around NFL coaches and scouts.
Texas wide receivers Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson were the two Longhorns who participated. Both will most likely be selected in the 2020 NFL Draft in April, and the Senior Bowl provided an opportunity to improve their draft stocks.
Before that, it’s important to take a look at what both receivers did in the 2019 college football season to get invited to Mobile.
Duvernay was arguably Texas’ most impressive player in 2019. One of four players in the country to top the century mark, he led the Longhorns with 106 catches on the year and totaled 1,386 receiving yards, about the distance from Raising Cane’s on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the In-N-Out on Guadalupe Street. Duvernay also caught nine touchdowns.
Among wide receivers in 2019 who registered at least 100 plays, Duvernay finished fifth in estimated points added per play.
Then there’s Johnson. His eyes were on the NFL following the 2018 season, but he decided to return to Texas for his senior year. Yet a hamstring injury kept the 6-foot-6-inch playmaker on the sideline for half the season.
“I promised myself since I got on campus I would get my degree,” Johnson said in an interview with Longhorn Network following the 2018 season. “Also I get to play with my brother Kirk for another year at our dream school.”
Johnson still registered 559 yards receiving with only half a year of work.
Johnson was often used on 50/50 balls but struggled with the more physical cornerbacks. He showed good route running ability over the middle and showed flashes of how difficult his size makes it for defenders to take him down.
Fast forward to the week leading up to the Senior Bowl. The players get three practices together before the game. Both Duvernay and Johnson added moments to their highlight tapes in one-on-one drills. Johnson started it off with an impressive double move against Pittsburgh redshirt senior Dane Jackson, a second team All-ACC selection. The next day, Duvernay separated on a go route, then Colorado senior quarterback Steven Montez connected with him for a touchdown.
Saturday was game day. Both Longhorns received meaningful snaps for the South team. The game did not flow in a very productive way for either receiver.
Duvernay led the South with 28 receiving yards on two catches, including one from senior Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Montez tried to dial up the same throw to Duvernay that worked in one-on-ones, but an early push on Duvernay’s face mask by the defensive back along with a slightly overthrown ball resulted in an incompletion.
It was Duvernay’s only other target of the day. Montez threw a third quarter interception that would likely have been a pick six if not for Duvernay using his speed and strength to chase down the defender.
Collin Johnson had two catches on two targets. However, Johnson’s biggest impact on the game came away from the ball on a touchdown play in the first quarter. Florida senior Lamical Perine took a 16-yard screen pass to the house, but it was Johnson who threw the critical block.
Going into Senior Bowl week, both Duvernay and Johnson were likely to be selected in the middle rounds of the draft. The biggest obstacle for the Texas receivers is that the 2020 wide receiver class is deep with talent.