Their backgrounds are well-documented – like their parents while they played college football, they are roommates at Texas, and their brothers were two of the best players to suit up for the Longhorns in recent memory.
And with David Ash questionable for this week’s game against Ole Miss, the relationship between Case McCoy and Jaxon Shipley is once again relevant.
Ash exited last Saturday’s loss to BYU after suffering injuries to his head and right shoulder. Head coach Mack Brown called him day-to-day Monday and he had not practiced this week, as of Wednesday.
Not since two Thanksgivings ago has McCoy won a game as the Longhorns starter but he will be relied upon to lead Texas to a victory if Ash is sidelined Saturday. McCoy would presumably rely on Shipley if called upon, but the numbers say that Shipley helps Ash out arguably more than he does McCoy.
When targeting Shipley, David Ash has thrown for 974 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 77.2 percent of his passes, compared to 60.1 percent when targeting anyone else.
McCoy completes 64.4 percent of his throws to Shipley and 64.6 percent of his throws to all other receivers – an insignificant difference. But McCoy does average 10.7 yards per attempt when throwing to Shipley, compared to 7.4 yards per attempt when targeting anyone else.
Bottom line: Whether it’s Ash or McCoy behind center for the Longhorns on Saturday night, they should be looking at Shipley early and often.
Like he did last year, Mike Davis is leading Texas in receiving with 177 yards and three of the team’s six touchdown catches. Shipley has caught 13 passes, as many as Davis, for 145 yards but has yet to score this year.
While Davis has been slightly more productive than Shipley recently, he isn’t as careful with the ball. He coughed it up on the season’s first possession against New Mexico State and dropped a sure touchdown from McCoy late in the loss to BYU.
While McCoy clearly has a connection with Shipley, he seems to go elsewhere when throwing to the end zone. He has 13 touchdown passes in his career, only one of them to Shipley – a 14-yard score against Kansas State last season.
Seven of McCoy’s 13 touchdown tosses have come to tight ends, which doesn’t bode well for McCoy if he gets the nod this weekend because Texas tight ends have not factored in the passing game much this year. Only two of the Longhorns’ completions have been to tight ends – one for three yards to junior college transfer Geoff Swaim and another for 13 yards to Greg Daniels.
McCoy doesn’t have the arm strength Ash does but has shown superior anticipation at times. When working with a guy like Shipley, a sure route-runner and pass-catcher who likes to exploits defense underneath the coverage instead of over the top like Davis, they should connect more.
But, as the stats show, Shipley helps whoever is taking the snaps. Ash threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns in the 66-31 win over Ole Miss last September, but Shipley only caught three passes for 35 yards that day.
If Ash can shake off the injuries, he’ll do well to look Shipley’s way more often this time around. With the Texas offensive line struggling to pave the way for its running backs and not giving its quarterback enough time in the pocket, a quick, shifty guy like Shipley is the perfect way to keep a defense on its heels.
And if McCoy is the one at quarterback, he should have a similar plan – throw the ball to Shipley.