It was four short weeks ago that Jaxon Shipley had not one, not two but three touchdown catches — a career-high and as many scoring snags as he had all of last year.
Not only has he not scored since, but his role and production have been reduced to the point where it’s hard to tell if he’s on the team, much less the field, at times. The sophomore has made just one catch in each of the Longhorns’ last two games after making multiple catches in every previous game he’s played for Texas.
That has to change this week. No, Shipley having a big game won’t be the difference between the Longhorns winning or losing to Kansas on Saturday. Regardless of his performance and despite the defense’s recent struggles, Texas should leave Lawrence with a lopsided win.
But Texas has bigger things on its mind than just getting past a Jayhawks squad that hasn’t beaten a FBS team this year. If it wants to be able to beat the Texas Techs and Kansas States of the Big 12 world later this season, Shipley has to be a bigger part of the offense.
“He’s going to get his touches, he’s going to get his catches throughout the year,” sophomore quarterback David Ash said. “Maybe Jaxon didn’t have a lot of catches the last couple of games, he’s been productive throughout the year catching the ball, you notice what he does as a receiver outside of that. There were several of those touchdown runs where he had key blocks.”
In the Longhorns’ last two games, junior wideout Mike Davis has made 11 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns. Could it be that teams have focused more on stopping Shipley while giving Davis more chances to catch the ball?
“I’m sure when he caught three touchdowns, people were looking at him harder and trying to keep the ball out of his hands more,” head coach Mack Brown said of Shipley. “The defense, the coverage really dictates where David throws the ball. But we’ve said every time we come in that there’s somebody we didn’t get it too enough.”
For a while, those somebodies were freshman Daje Johnson and D.J. Monroe. Johnson made the most of the first of seven touches in Texas’ 56-50 win over Baylor last weekend. On the first play from scrimmage, he scored on an 84-yard touchdown run, with Shipley helping spring him free.
Monroe had six touches while Shipley had three in the victory.
“There were several of those touchdown runs where [Shipley] had key blocks, including that first one with Daje,” Ash said. “He cut the safety down, he couldn’t play it, that’s what sprung Daje. He actually blocked two guys on one of Joe’s touchdowns. He’s doing his job and he’s playing well.”
As great a job as Shipley is doing blocking opposing defenders, he needs to be given the same chance to beat those defensive backs downfield. It’s not enough to explain away his drop in production to other teams simply making more of an effort to shut him down than other Texas receivers.
If that’s the case, one would be left to hoping Kansas would focus on taking Davis out of the game, leaving Shipley to put up big numbers. But Davis and Shipley are capable of making significant contributions to the passing attack in the same game. And they should.
Throw Shipley a screen or two. Hand the ball off to him. Take a shot downfield to him. Get him used to touching the ball.
Because when the ball is in Shipley’s sure hands, the Longhorns’ offense is at its best.
Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Sure-handed Shipley needed