Texas Football: 5 Longhorns Who Could Benefit Most from Kendall Sanders' Absence
The Texas Longhorns' run of bad luck continued over the weekend with another arrest. This time it was rising sophomore Kendall Sanders, the team's leading candidate to take over Marquise Goodwin's job as the No. 3 wide receiver. But while he sorts out his legal trouble, guys like John Harris and Bryant Jackson have a great shot to make an impression on the coaches.
Sanders was arrested in, of all places, College Station this past Saturday at Chilifest for driving while intoxicated. These situations are always unfortunate, but especially in Sanders' case. Following his classmate Cayleb Jones' arrest, Sanders was drawing rave reviews from his coaches thanks to his dynamic athlete ability (burntorangenation.com)
This is the third Longhorn arrest since the new year, and it would not be surprising to see Mack Brown shelve Sanders for a game or two. And since no current receiver outside of slated starters Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley and Daje Johnson recorded more than 10 catches in 2012, the 'Horns need to prepare for the worst and get another guy ready.
The door is now open for several players that were on their way to being buried on the depth chart. Here are those players, and what they need to do to set themselves apart for what could be a starting spot in the fall.
The player that stands to benefit most from Sanders' absence is fourth-year wideout and spring game standout John Harris.
At 6'3" and almost 220 pounds, Harris is more similar to Cayleb Jones than he is to Kendall Sanders. He is a big target with enormous hands and can go get the ball in traffic, making him pragmatic in the red zone. Harris is also a tough blocker, which Texas needs on the edge after losing Marquise Goodwin to the NFL.
The most important thing for Harris to do is stay healthy. His talent has always been there, but a foot injury derailed his first year of eligibility. He also has worked out some at tight end, where his receiving talents would be a welcome addition.
With or without Sanders, Harris stands to see time. The only question is where and at what capacity.
Following the arrests of his two classmates, Marcus Johnson is the lone 2012 receiver recruit whose record remains unblemished. If Texas wants another deep threat, Johnson is certainly worth a look.
Johnson has appropriate size to play wideout along with decent knowledge of the nuances of the position. He has been overlooked because he does not have the speed of Sanders nor the size of Jones. But Johnson is a nice marriage between the two, and could prove to be every bit as talented.
What Johnson has going for him is that he can play inside or out. That helps because Texas really wants to move Jaxon Shipley inside, where he can shred the opposition with his footwork. If Johnson can be effective on the outside, it will be tough to keep him on the sidelines.
Bryant Jackson is the other fourth-year wideout that has a shot to bust into the starting lineup. But he has got to improve his route running to do so.
Jackson, like Harris, is a bigger receiver at 6'2" and looked to be finally coming along this spring. He missed his chance to show out at the spring game, turning his six catches into only 27 yards. But one thing that can be said about him is that he can make some tough catches, which is needed when you are playing with the sometimes-errant David Ash.
Jackson definitely has the speed and the hands for the position. He just needs to show that he can run a crisp route and get separation on a consistent basis. If that happens, he has as good a shot as anyone to break into the rotation.
Sophomore Duke Thomas was not even a receiver a month ago. Now, due in equal parts to necessity and a strong spring game, he is under strong consideration for significant playing time.
As a receiver, Thomas is a bit of an unknown for Longhorn fans. He played well as Carrington Byndom's backup in his freshman season, but the emergence of Sheroid Evans and Bryson Echols have allowed the 'Horns to try him out in the slot.
Thomas has both the speed and the vision to be a solid option in the slot. And considering he recorded three catches for 27 yards in the spring game with almost no prior instruction, his improvement this summer is worth keeping an eye on.
The final player that could see a bump in playing time while Kendall Sanders sorts out his legal trouble is incoming freshman Jacorey Warrick, a slippery-quick prospect in the slot.
The Longhorns are looking more for someone who can play on the outside, so the polished Jake Oliver might be the choice here. Unfortunately, Oliver does not have Warrick's quickness and will probably sit for a year to learn from Jaxon Shipley. Warrick, though, already has the ball skills and elusiveness that the 'Horns will miss from Sanders.
This move is unlikely because of how many players Warrick will have jump on the depth chart. But if he is ahead of the curve, he should easily pass up Thomas and Jackson.
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