With Texas' offense officially centered around the running game and lingering questions about the quarterback position, it is easy to forget about the role Jaxon Shipley will play in 2012.
For all the expectations heaped on him courtesy of his older brother, Shipley not only had a good freshman season, but he was also arguably Texas' best offensive weapon. His 44 receptions and 607 receiving yards are good for second best for a Texas freshman, and his three touchdown grabs are tied for second place as well.
And don't forget the four touchdowns he threw.
With a full offseason under his belt, Shipley enters 2012 poised for a breakout season for this Longhorns. Here's everything you need to know about this budding star heading into this highly anticipated 2012 season.
In addition to writing himself into the Texas receiving record books, Shipley also made noise last season by doing everything from throwing touchdowns to returning punts.
From the season's get-go, it became very obvious that Bryan Harsin was going to do whatever he could to get the ball into the young Shipley's hands, calling three rushes for him in the first game against Rice and a WR pass in the second game against BYU. Shipley delivered with 25 yards and a 23-yard completion respectively in those games.
From then on, Shipley became Harsin's go-to guy when deciding to reach into his bag of tricks, especially when he could utilize the former high school quarterback's arm. Shipley finished the season with four touchdown passes, equaling projected 2012 starter David Ash's total for the entire season. In fact, his prowess in the passing game made him a cult favorite to take over the position.
However, Shipley is a wide receiver and will remain so. And much to the chagrin of opposing Big 12 coaches, he will continue to give them headaches with his multitude of talents.
With the offense more suited for a ground-and-pound style of play thanks to the stacked trio of running backs, Texas will not be as explosive as it has been in years past. But whenever the offense does pull off a game-breaker, it is a safe bet that Jaxon Shipley will have had something to do with it.
In addition to getting the ball downfield with his arm, Shipley is no stranger to the big receptions with which his brother Jordan spoiled fans. Last season alone, Jaxon racked up receptions of 36, 49 and 78 yards, just to name a few.
Usually the most dangerous offensive players are the fastest guys on the field, but not in Shipley's case. While he does have decent speed, Jaxon's real weapons for getting separation are his quickness and exceptional feel for the wide receiver position.
And as if that weren't enough, Shipley also has the ability to make absolute circus catches, so all he needs is a chance.
Jaxon may not turn out to be the downfield threat the faster Jordan was, but this Shipley definitely has the ability to get the whole of Royal Memorial on its feet.
Considering that Shipley is not only the team's most versatile threat but also the owner of the team's best hands, it is no wonder Texas put up its two worst offensive games in 2011 during his absence.
Last season, Shipley missed both the Missouri and Kansas State games, both losses, due to a mild knee injury. In those two games, Texas posted only five and 13 points, respectively, for their two lowest totals of the season.
Shipley's absence is not totally to blame for the Longhorns' struggles in these matchups, but when he is out of the lineup the offense is much more limited. Not only does Shipley have the best hands on the team, but he is also the best inside route-runner, so his absence hampers the quarterback's ability to dump it down when necessary.
Being the game-breaker that he is, Shipley's presence also prevents the defense from stacking up against the run, since his plethora of talents must always be accounted for by the opposing defense. With him out, both the WR pass and the deep threat are absent, making the offense more predictable.
If Texas is going to climb back to the top this season, Shipley needs to stay healthy.
Of all the characteristics Shipley seems to share with his brother, among the most obvious is his knack for stepping up in the big game.
Shipley does not just make plays, but he also makes them when it matters. For example, he had a 23-yard completion to ice the BYU game, threw a 41-yard touchdown in the nail-biter against A&M and threw another touchdown in the bowl victory over Cal.
Ship Ship also played some of his best games against the best teams. In the Oklahoma game, he racked up nine catches for 89 yards while scoring the team's only offensive touchdown. Then in the Baylor game, where Texas was severely outmatched, Shipley caught a 78-yarder to tie the game (as part of his 141-yard outing) before Baylor pulled away.
And these example are not isolated incidents. According to ESPN's KC Joyner, Shipley averaged nine yards per attempt against BCS teams this past season, which would have ranked him seventh among the top 10 wide receivers taken in this year's NFL draft.
Stat-stuffing is one thing, but being able to do it when your team needs it most is the mark of a true star. And Jaxon Shipley has proven he can do just that.
Fully expect 2012 to be the season Jaxon Shipley stakes his claim as Texas' best receiver likely until he graduates.
After ranking second on the team in receptions and receiving yards despite missing three games to injury last season, Shipley should have no problem establishing himself as the team's top receiver. Not only that, but he could also be the team's best offensive player, since the running backs will all be splitting duty.
Realistically, Shipley will likely play second-hat to whichever running back has the biggest season, but his contribution to this team will be significant. As stated previously, his presence on the field will help keep the defense honest, and he will be ready to burn them whenever too much attention is paid to the backs.
Thanks to his all-around game and knack for making big plays, Shipley should play well enough to be named Second Team All-Big 12. It may seem a little high, but if he stays healthy he should be able to put up around 750 receiving yards and 12 all-purpose touchdowns.
In any event, he is once again going to play a major role in the success of both this offense and the team as a whole.