Senior tight end Barrett Matthews and sophomore tight end Greg Daniels have been used sparingly in the passing game this season, with their biggest contributions coming in the run game. However, that changed against Iowa State.
Each player was lined up on the Longhorns’ first offensive snap of the game – scheduled to be Texas’ wishbone tribute to Darrell K Royal — and both made a major impact.
Matthews was on the field to block, the Longhorns threw a double-reverse pass, and he had to hold up a collapsing linebacker to make the play work. It was important, but Daniels’ job was a bit more stressful. He was tasked with making the catch that would honor Royal, and after he sold the run block, Daniels sprinted to the corner on the Texas sideline, pulling away from the pursuit to haul in the 47-yard catch.
“I am honored that they called my number,” Daniels said. “It was great to catch a pass and get open. I’m just honored they trusted me to do that.”
Trust is something that has been building in the coaching staff for Daniels and Matthews both. Each has been a practice warrior despite limited playing time, and every time they’ve laid out a solid block, the more and more that the coaching staff believes they can perform under pressure.
“Having Greg and Barrett on the first play - that was a no brainer,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “Those guys have practiced well. They play hard, and they have done a lot of things to deserve to be in there.”
Daniels had his huge moment on the first offense snap – the play was shown all over national television that day – but Matthews’ came on a bit smaller scale a quarter later.
The Longhorns drove the ball to the Cyclones’ three-yard line, and that’s when Harsin decided to go deep into the playbook. Ash received the snap and rolled left, tossing the ball up to a wide open Matthews, who had snuck into the back corner of the end zone after shedding his block, for a touchdown.
Ash said Matthews was the only option on that play, and the senior did everything right to earn his first touchdown reception since his sophomore year. It was a play call designed to reward Matthews for all his hard work and for not getting frustrated despite his lack of playing time.
“That was something that we put together because you want to throw a guy a bone that has been out there grinding, banging his head out there for a lot of games and just being physical but not complaining about it,” Harsin said.
It may have been just a bone, but it could be the most rewarding gimme Matthews has ever received, Matthews said after the game.
Both tight ends made huge plays against the Cyclones, but their careers are headed in quite different directions. Matthews is finishing up his time at Texas, and he’ll be working to enjoy his last few games while ensuring the Longhorns finish as strongly as possible. Daniels, on the other hand, is steadily improving as an all-around tight end in his first season the position after playing defensive end in high school.
The tight ends aren’t a go-to group yet, but the pair, along with D.J. Grant and M.J. McFarland are working hard to change that.
“We are still building and still want more things to come to us,” Matthews said. “We want to be able to lead the offense, but they still have to trust us and we are still building trust.”