Texas Football: 5 Players Who Need More Touches in 2013
Original Article via Zach Shelton - Bleacher Report
Every college football team has players who do not get enough touches or need an expanded role in an offense—at least in the opinions of the fans.
Here is a look at five such football players for the University of Texas, including two who are set for breakout seasons.
One side effect of trading out Bryan Harsin for Major Applewhite at offensive coordinator is that many of Texas' skill players will see expanded roles in the fall or at least have a shot at securing one for themselves.
Applewhite wants speed and pace, which translates into more playmakers being needed on the field. That means certain Longhorns will maintain their previous duties in the offense while others may seemingly come out of nowhere to become major contributors.
These five Longhorns will be those featured players in 2013, but only if they get the touches they deserve.
More so than any other Texas player, all-purpose speed demon Daje Johnson needs a major increase in his touches. Failing to do so could cost the Longhorns more than just wins in 2013.
Johnson, who is among the fastest players in the country, was electric with the ball as a freshman. He averaged 10.6 yards per touch and became only the second Texas freshman to ever have both a rush and a reception of more than 70 yards in a season.
What is even more amazing is that Johnson was able to achieve that feat while touching the ball fewer than four times per game. To put that in perspective, Malcolm Brown missed five games and got the rock 30 more times than Johnson.
With Marquise Goodwin gone, Johnson stands alone as Texas' most explosive offensive player. In Major Applewhite's up-tempo system, it wil be a crime if Johnson touches the ball less than 75 times, doubling his load from last season.
If he is underutilized again, the Longhorns will not just be wasting a valuable weapon, but also lead players like Johnson to start playing football elsewhere.
Malcolm Brown's lack of carries last season can be mostly chalked up to his ankle injuries. However, the coaching staff also showed a tendency to forget about him, something that cannot happen in 2013.
As everyone knows, Brown's problem have never been talent. He has missed eight games as a Longhorn and been hampered in many more. The additional issue with Brown is that he has also been passed over at times in the offense for bruiser Joe Bergeron, getting only six combined carries when healthy against New Mexico and Oregon State.
Even though Johnathan Gray is expected to be the feature back, Brown needs a defined role in this offense. He has a powerful style that is an ideal complement to the elusive Gray without sacrificing as much quickness as Bergeron, who struggles to make people miss.
Brown is too talented to rot on the bench. Texas must find a way to allow him to consistently attack the defense. If he is healthy, he and Gray need a 60-40 split, with the speedier backs taking all but the extremely short-yardage carries.
In spite of his DUI arrest in the spring, sophomore Kendall Sanders remains the favorite to take over as Texas' third receiver. His athleticism demands attention in Major Applewhite's offense.
Putting the arrest aside, Sanders is exactly what Texas needs at receiver. He has 4.4 speed, long arms and can go up and get the ball as well as anybody with his 40-inch vertical leap. He can also play on the outside, which would allow Jaxon Shipley to move over to his natural position in the slot.
Sanders gives Texas a player who can stretch the field opposite Mike Davis, as well as a reliable target in the red zone, an area in which David Ash could use all the help he can get. Sanders should help out and will greatly exceed the two catches he made his freshman year.
The Longhorns have been desperate for consistent tight end production since 2007.
Redshirt sophomore M.J. McFarland has the most upside at the position, but he needs more opportunities to prove he can get the job done.
Texas cannot afford to substitute its tight ends as it did last season. It slows down the pace and gives opposing defenses time to adjust their personnel accordingly, two things that Texas wants to prevent in 2013.
The Longhorns' best bet is to go with a receiving threat at the position who has the potential to grow as a blocker. McFarland definitely has the pass-catching chops with a position-best 15.6 yards per catch last season. He also stands at 6'6" and 245 pounds, so there is no reason to believe that he cannot learn to push people around when he is not burning safeties and linebackers.
Increasing McFarland's role will give Texas a big receiver over the middle and in the red zone instead of a tight end who is no serious threat to the defense. McFarlan only needs a handful of targets per game to keep defenses honest.
It's not usual to cry for more touches for a player who recorded 58 receptions the previous season, but that is the case with receiver Jaxon Shipley.
If you have a list of players who will flourish in Texas' up-tempo offense, Shipley had better be on it. He is a decisive route-runner with sure hands who is going to be open a lot, especially if he can work out of the slot.
What the coaches and David Ash need to do is make sure that when Shipley is open, the ball is finding him. Ash tends to try to show off his arm and force the ball to guys like Mike Davis deep downfield, when a simple underneath throw to Shipley is all that is needed to keep the chains moving.
If Shipley does his work as a possession receiver, that will allow for those deeper routes to be open. That said, Shipley needs to have in the neighborhood of 75 receptions to keep the chain gang busy all season long.