Mike Davis

Junior wide reciever Marcus Johnson fights off a defender during the game against OSU last season. Johnson, who took advantage of his oppurtunities last season, is expected to become one of Texas' top reciever threats, taking the place of Mike Davis. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

After a 1-2 start to the 2013 season and an injury to senior wide receiver Mike Davis in the conference opener, Texas needed its younger players to shine. Several candidates were expected to fill the role, but very few signs pointed to sophomore wide receiver Marcus Johnson being the one.

Johnson missed Texas’ previous two games with a knee injury and entered with only one catch in nine career games. However, in the end it was Johnson who took advantage of the occasion, hauling in five passes for 70 yards against Kansas State in the Big 12 opener, including two grabs in Texas’ final scoring drive. 

“I just felt like that first opportunity against Kansas State — I came off the little knee injury, and I went out there and did what I could to step up in the time when Mike was hurt,” Johnson said. “And from then on I think my confidence was there, and from there on everything went well.”

Now a junior, Johnson enters 2014 expected to take over Davis’ old role as Texas’ big play receiver. He showed flashes of potential last season, none bigger than his 59-yard touchdown catch in Texas’ upset victory over Oklahoma last October. 

“That was a major step,” Johnson said. “Going into the game, I wasn’t expecting anything like that touchdown at the time or anything like that. But, when it happened, it just let me know, man, that I could do this. I can be a dynamic player.”

After spending last season as an unknown by opposing defenses, Johnson will now be a team’s defensive game plan to shutdown. Not one to back away from a challenge, Johnson looks forward to taking on opponents’ top corners and facing the most experienced defensive backs.

“You want competition. You want to go against the best,” Johnson said. “Even in practice, I’m constantly calling guys like Duke [Thomas] and Quandre [Diggs] out because that’s who you want. You want the best competition to make you better.”

Johnson’s teammates have even taken notice of the wideout’s urge to compete amongst the best as he continues to improve.

“Marcus is a hard worker, and he wants to go against the best, and we see that,” junior running back Johnathan Gray said. “That’s what we want. We want guys like Marcus to call out some of those veterans and say ‘Come against me.’ That’s what we need, and we love the competitiveness, and we need guys like that to help us win.” 

Because of Johnson’s willingness to challenge himself, it won’t be a surprise if he finishes 2014 as Texas’ leading receiver. 

Ultimately, it will come down to Johnson continuing to take advantage of his opportunities to impact games like he did in 2013.

“It’s funny, because if I would’ve dropped the pass against Oklahoma, it would’ve been a lot different right now,” Johnson said. 

But Johnson hauled in that pass, showing a penchant for making explosive plays that he would repeat on an identical route for a 65-yard touchdown in the next game against TCU. As Texas’ top returning deep threat, the rising junior is poised to take on a vital role in Texas’ passing game.

“When the opportunity or chance comes, [it’s] just [about] taking advantage of it and continuing to build and grow,” Johnson said.



DE Jackson Jeffcoat (SR.)

Prior to the Texas Tech game on Thanksgiving, Jeffcoat had already logged two multi-sack games en route to a total of seven on the season. Apparently that wasn’t enough for the senior, who feasted on Red Raiders quarterbacks all night. By game’s end, Jeffcoat had added three more sacks — a career-high — bringing his season total to a whopping 10. If Texas is going to disrupt Baylor’s explosive offense, it’s going to need another huge effort from Jeffcoat.


WR Mike Davis (SR.)

Three weeks ago, Davis was in the midst of a three-game swoon during which he had four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Oh, how quickly things can change. The senior wideout has been on a tear the past three games, racking up a total of 16 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Davis has done most of his damage on big plays, as he has had a catch of at least 40 yards in all of those games. He has a career-high eight touchdowns on the season with two contests remaining, including a bowl game.


K/P Anthony Fera (SR.)

As Nick Saban and Alabama can attest to, you only notice a kicker when he’s not doing his job — and boy, that can hurt you. Fera has been nothing short of spectacular this season, making 19 of his 20 field goal attempts, including five of six from at least 40 yards. Considering the fact that he also handles the punting duties for the Longhorns, the senior has shown he is a one-man weapon on special teams.




RB/WR Daje Johnson (SO.)

Daje Johnson just can’t catch a break. After a scintillating start to the season when he had over 120 total yards and two touchdowns against New Mexico State, the sophomore out of Pflugerville has been plagued by injuries and a lack of production. Things hit rock bottom for him last week, when he was suspended for the Texas Tech game for a violation of team rules. In the seven games he has appeared in since the season opener, Johnson has a combined 160 yards of total offense.


Texas Punt Return Coverage

Falling for a fake punt is one thing — but letting a punter run 51 yards for a touchdown is on another level. Was anyone else feeling a little queasy watching Tech punter Ryan Erxleben throw up the “shhhh” sign — an index finger over his mouth — after he rumbled into the end zone? Fortunately, that nausea was alleviated once the Longhorns reeled off 41 of the game’s final 50 points.


Junior David Ash announced Monday that he will not play again this season. Texas will continue to start senior Case McCoy, who did not throw any interceptions in the first five games of the season. He has thrown nine in the last five, including a three-interception performance in Texas’ 38-13 loss to Oklahoma State on Nov. 16. McCoy’s numbers may improve against a Texas Tech defense that has only forced seven interceptions on the season in opposition to OSU’s 19. Freshman quarterbacks Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield have split starts in Texas Tech’s current four-game losing streak. The two have combined for over 4,000 yards passing and 28 touchdowns in a season that included a 7-0 start. Texas will most likely game-plan for Mayfield, who threw for 314 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in Tech’s 63-34 loss to Baylor on Nov. 16. The walk-on from Lake Travis high school has struggled against the top defenses in the Big 12, throwing five combined interceptions against TCU and Kansas State.

Advantage: Texas Tech


Running Backs

Carries are limited for Kenny Williams in a Texas Tech offense that has ran the ball almost 300 times less than they have passed. But the junior from Hendrickson high school has 439 yards and eight touchdowns rushing on the season. Sophomore DeAndre Washington provides 4.3 yards a carry with 388 yards on the season and four touchdowns. Neither back has rushed for 100 yards in a game this season, but provide a pass threat, combining for over 400 yards receiving on the year. The Texas run game produced 151 yards and a touchdown in their first game without sophomore Johnathan Gray against Oklahoma State. Junior Malcolm Brown started with a 55-yard, one touchdown first half and added 28 yards in the second half. Junior Joe Bergeron averaged 4.9 yards a carry in a 49-yard performance that demonstrated the Longhorn backfield was still intact. With the recent performance of the pass game, perhaps there will be a leniency on the running backs against a Texas tech defense that gives up 186 yards a game on the ground.

Advantage: Texas


Wide Receivers

The Texas receiving unit has yet to produce a 300-yard game this season and will be compared to a Tech receiving core that has never combined for less than 300 yards in more than one game. Senior Mike Davis surpassed Jaxon Shipley as the team’s leading receiver in the 38-13 loss to Oklahoma State with nine catches for 112 yards. Davis and Shipley have been in tandem as McCoy’s most consistent receivers, combining for 328 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. The Texas receivers may pick up on a few pointers from Tech’s 63-34 loss to Baylor, where the secondary allowed 335 yards through the air. Junior tight end Jace Amaro has been the main target this season for the Red Raiders and surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in just nine games with a 174-yard, one touchdown performance against Oklahoma State. Senior Eric Ward leads the receivers with eight touchdowns and has accumulated 381 yards and five touchdowns in the last four games. Sophomore Jakeem Grant is third in receiving with 707 yards on the season, and provides a deep threat with five receptions of over 30 yards. Tech will provide the toughest matchup the Texas secondary has seen this season.

Advantage: Texas Tech


Offensive Line

Texas Tech has given up twice as many sacks as Texas, but has passed almost twice as often, so, the proportions even out. Sophomore Le’Raven Clark was named freshman all-America a season ago and has since moved to left tackle. Clark will have the duties of protecting his quarterback from Jackson Jeffcoat, who has seven sacks on the season. The Red Raiders gave up three sacks to Baylor in their last game, and will face the third-ranked pass rush in the Big 12 against Texas. The Longhorn offensive line has only given up three sacks in the last six weeks, and had an unblemished record against Oklahoma State until freshman Tyrone Swoopes was sacked on the last play of the game. The styles between Texas and Tech vary completely when it comes to offensive line, but the Longhorns have given up 10 less tackles for loss, including both the pass and the run. Protection has come from left guard Trey Hopkins and left tackle Donald Hawkins, who together maintained a four-game stretch of sackless football ball from the left side.

Advantage: Texas


Defensive Line:

The Red Raider pass rush has emerged mostly from the linebackers, but the key for Tech will be stopping the Longhorn run game. Tech has struggled recently against the run, allowing almost 300 yards a game in their last four match-ups. They will face off against an offensive line that has paved the way for almost 180 rushing yards a game for Texas and has given up three sacks in the last six games. Seniors Dartwan Bush and Kerry Hyder will battle for the line of scrimmage and each have two sacks on the season. The Texas defensive line was shutout against Oklahoma State a week after the line had a six-sack, five-forced fumble performance against West Virginia. It was the first time since playing Ole Miss that the d-line did not have a sack in a game. The Cowboys allow the 10th fewest sacks in the nation. Tech’s offensive line has allowed 14 more than OSU. Sophomore tackle Malcolm Brown stood in for the injured Chris Whaley in an impressive seven-tackle performance against Oklahoma State, but the key to success against Tech will fall upon defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed, who each hold the second-most sacks in the Big 12.

Advantage: Texas



Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 38-13 win over Texas, including an 18-yard scamper for the game’s first score. Mayfield is not as much a dual-threat player, but Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington will provide an issue to a Texas linebacker group that has struggled in the open field. Incomparable to West Virginia’s Charles Sims, who had 135 total yards and three touchdowns against Texas earlier this season, Williams and Washington present a style of play that the Texas linebackers do not excel against. The linebackers provide the defensive pass rush for Texas Tech, with 11 sacks split between their four starters. Senior Will Smith leads the team with 3.5 sacks on the season and had a career-high 16 tackles against Baylor on Nov. 16. Their top concern will be against the run after being a part of a rush defense that has given up over 1,000 yards in the last four games. The Texas backfield will be limited with Johnathan Gray out for the season with a torn Achilles and Daje Johnson suspended for violating team rules. Facing less offensive firepower, Tech will be able to gameplan in less variety. 

Advantage: Texas Tech


Defensive Backs

The Red Raider secondary was torched against Baylor, where Bear quarterback Bryce Petty threw for 335 yards, three touchdowns and averaged almost 20 yards a completion. The Texas passing game ranks 43 places behind Baylor nationally, but possess the threat of depth and talent with wide receivers Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, Marcus Johnson and three other receivers who all have touchdown receptions of over 50 yards. Their success will be dependent on the performance of the recently struggling Case McCoy. The Texas secondary has struggled after facing passing offenses that are ranked in the top four in the Big 12, giving up 487 yards and three touchdowns to Oklahoma State and West Virginia. They will now face their toughest matchup yet against the top passing offense in the nation. The defensive backfield will look to exploit the youth of freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has thrown an interception in each of his last five games. 

Advantage: Texas Tech


Special Teams

Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert marked for the sixth kick return of over 40 yards against the Texas kickoff team this season. The Longhorn kick-coverage team is fourth-to-last in the nation in yards given up per return, and their punt coverage team is eight-to-last. Field position will be key against the top ranked passing offense in Texas Tech, whose return team has six returns of over 30 yards on the season. The Red Raiders’ kick return team averages 23 yards a return behind freshman wide receiver Reginald Davis and junior defensive back Austin Stewart. Tech’s kick and punt coverage teams both rank in the bottom half in the nation. Their field goal team has been sound as junior kicker Ryan Bustin has made each of his last eight field goal attempts.

Advantage: Texas Tech



WR Mike Davis (Sr.)

Well, hello there Mr. Davis. Apparently he saw himself on the “Stock Down” portion of last week’s segment and decided to do something about it — and boy, did he. The senior wideout had his best game in conference play, breaking out for 91 yards on three catches, none bigger than the 49-yard touchdown he reeled in with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter. With Oklahoma State in town for a game with huge conference title implications, the Longhorns need Davis to have an encore performance.


WR Jaxon Shipley (Jr.)

While Davis is more of a home run threat, Shipley has fortified his role in this offense as “Mr. Reliable.” He was the man of the hour in Saturday’s game against West Virginia, recording his first touchdown of season on an acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone before hauling in a nine-yard pass on 4th-and-7 to give the Longhorns a crucial first down. If Davis can stretch the field against the Cowboys and draw some double teams in the secondary, Shipley should have a field day.


S Adrian Phillips (Sr.)

After a couple of subpar games in which he didn’t tackle well, Phillips came back strong against the Mountaineers, recording eight solo tackles and his second interception of the season. Although the Longhorns gave up 40 points on Saturday, just imagine how many they would have allowed Phillips not made those plays in one-on-one situations.





RB Johnathan Gray (So.)

Gray was the Longhorns’ primary offensive weapon heading into the West Virginia game, averaging over 20 carries and 90 rushing yards a game in Big 12 play. Unfortunately, he suffered a ruptured Achilles on a 27-yard run and is now lost for the rest of the season — a crushing blow for this team. With their most talented player now on the sidelines, how will this this offense respond?


DT Chris Whaley (Sr.)

If Gray’s injury wasn’t costly enough for the Longhorns, Whaley’s surely is. The senior defensive tackle had shown a knack for making big plays but is now done for the season after injuring his knee against the Mountaineers. This defense will need someone to step in and fill the massive void that Whaley’s absence creates.


CB Duke Thomas (So.)

Surrounded by Phillips, senior cornerback Carrington Byndom and standout junior cornerback Quandre Diggs, Thomas is by far the least experienced member of the Longhorns secondary. Although he has mostly played well, he also gets burned at times. On Saturday, he got burned — badly. With Texas nursing a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, Thomas got beat on an inside move by West Virginia’s Mario Alford, who blew past him for an easy 72-yard go-ahead touchdown. It didn’t cost Texas the game, but it could have. Thomas has to play smarter. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Coming into the season, the Longhorns faced a bevy of questions at the wide receiver position.

Veteran wideouts Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley missed time in training camp with nagging injuries, while sophomore receivers Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson were each inactive for games early in the season. These concerns are nothing but a distant memory now, though, as Texas’ now healthy cast of wide receivers form perhaps the team’s most dynamic offensive unit.

“The depth at wide receiver has really helped us,” head coach Mack Brown said. “I’m not sure this isn’t our best group of wide receivers top to bottom that we’ve had since we’ve been here.”

Texas’ starters at wide receiver both played well in the Longhorns first eight games, with Shipley leading the team with 39 receptions for 445 and Davis setting the high mark with five touchdowns. But Shipley and Davis hardly stand as the Longhorns’ only consistent threats through the air.

Sanders racked up 28 receptions for 286 yards and a score in his first seven games this season, while Johnson places third on the team with 301 receiving yards. Adding to the depth are sophomore running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson, who has 14 receptions in six games, and junior wide receiver John Harris, who has two touchdowns.

“I think we’ve really developed two-deep at the wide receiver position, and [wide receivers coach Darrell] Wyatt has done a really good job of getting us blocking and getting us to do all of our assignments,” Shipley said. “We’re really excited about the wide receivers.”

Senior quarterback Case McCoy continues to enjoy the depth at wide receiver, as having a number of viable options in the passing game allows him to spread the ball around without having to zero in on a single target.

“Those guys are stepping in and can play,” McCoy said. “When we have our four wideouts on the field, that’s a good group right there. I can throw the ball to any of those guys and I know where they’re going to be.”

Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite believes that the injuries to Texas’ veteran wide outs early in training camp prepared the younger receivers for increased playing time, as players like Sanders, Marcus Johnson and Daje Johnson received extra reps with the first team offense.

“Even though it was frustrating when Jaxon and Mike weren’t practicing and then you lose Kendall Sanders with an ankle and then Marcus with a knee, all those other guys started getting reps and now it has started to pay off,” Applewhite said. “Now all those reps that aren’t seen in the stat lines that are given out in August, now all those things are starting to come and you got top-to-bottom depth.”

Brown expects the Longhorns receivers to continue
producing in the upcoming games, as teams figure to stack the box in an attempt to stop a torrid Texas rushing attack that has produced 221 yards on the ground in its last three games.

“Those guys should be in one-on-one situations, because more people are going to be trying to stop the run the next four weeks,” Brown said. “It should leave some one-on-one shots. We need to do a better job of getting the ball in their hands in space or hit some deep shots.”

The Longhorns know that maintaining a balanced offensive game plan is necessary if they hope to remain in the driver’s seat for a Big 12 title. This calls for McCoy to maintain a strong connection with his wide receivers, and unlike at the start of the year, he has plenty of options to throw to. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Mike Davis played injured on Thursday night against Iowa State. He battled through a painful ankle injury, caused a mismatch every down and had a good game with six catches for 64 yards. Yet, none of that matters after his blatant cheap shot during the third quarter.

On an easy Joe Bergeron touchdown with 4:30 remaining in the third, Davis went for a block in the end zone, well away from the play, taking out the knees of Cyclone defensive back Deon Broomfield. 

It was dirty, unnecessary and blatant, a play deserving of a one-game suspension — something Texas should enforce. 

That won’t happen, of course. The Big 12 handed down its punishment to Davis on Saturday in the form of a written reprimand from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, essentially a verbal scolding from an upset parent — an angry wag of the finger. 

Still, that’s more than Davis received from head coach Mack Brown after the game. Brown defended his senior wideout.

“He couldn’t hear (the whistle),” Brown said. “There’s 70,000 people screaming their guts out.”

Monday, Davis did show some remorse for the block. Nonetheless, Davis said if the same situation came up again, he’d repeat his actions.

“If the DB’s loafing, he deserves to get cut,” Davis said. “I think people blew it out of proportion. They took it too far.”

Players are taught to play to the whistle from youth football, but they are not instructed to block in such an egregious fashion. Davis’ block went straight at the knees of Broomfield, there was no effort to square up and push him in the chest or even a glance at the shoulder pads. Davis attacked the weakest body part of the player who had pushed and banged him around the entire contest. 

In addition to his comments Monday, Davis went on a Twitter rant following the game, shielding his actions. 

“I don’t have a history of being a dirty player and have never been called one,” Davis said. “The tape without knowledge of the circumstances is unfair.”

“The play call was an option to either a run or WR screen,” Davis said. “My job is to protect our WR screen & block my defender. I wasn’t aware it was.”

“I wasn’t aware it was a run,” Davis said. “Check the tape and you can see our other WR is also blocking his defender. I did exactly what we are taught to.” 

But if you check the film, Davis’ block came well away from the play, and while he did have his head down, the running back’s dive wouldn’t have been affected by Broomfield working off his block. Davis never looked up at the play, just went straight at the knees, and, thankfully, Broomfield escaped without an injury.

Davis’ block is more at home in the realm of World Wrestling Entertainment instead of the college football field. Actually, it looked remarkably similar to the block for which Ndamukong Suh — widely considered the NFL’s dirtiest player — was fined $100,000 earlier this season. 

A fine isn’t an option in college football, as a suspension is the only way to ensure the message is received. Illegal hits with the potential to end careers cannot be tolerated. If integrity is important to Brown and he wants to enforce that lesson, a suspension is the only option.

It would be tough to lose his most dangerous weapon for the imperative game on the Longhorn schedule, but future player safety and the development of character is paramount.

Davis is not a dirty or a malicious player, but his actions deserve more than a statement of disappointment because Broomfield sums it up best.

“Mike Davis really tried to take me out,” Broomfield said.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

After failing to score in the second half against Ole Miss last week, the Longhorns’ offense could be in even bigger trouble this Saturday.

Texas enters the week with five offensive starters battling injuries, headlined by junior quarterback David Ash, whose playing status is questionable. Ash missed Saturday’s game against the Rebels after sustaining injuries to his head and right shoulder on Sept. 7 against Brigham Young University.

Head coach Mack Brown said Ash returned to practice for a walk-through on Sunday, though his status for the rest of the week remains unclear. The training staff plans to evaluate Ash each morning, and Brown said the quarterback could be back in practice Tuesday if he passes the concussion tests.

“They’re monitoring him to see if he can return Tuesday,” Brown said. “They’ll work him out briefly in the morning and then they’ll allow him to return Tuesday afternoon if there’s no symptoms there.”

If Ash remains unable to play, Brown plans to start senior quarterback Case McCoy for the second straight week. McCoy completed 24 of 36 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown against Ole Miss.

Freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes may also factor into the game plan if Ash can’t play. Brown said the coaching staff discussed playing Swoopes last Saturday, but opted against it following McCoy’s productive first half.

“We talked about it and said if we need to play him, we’ll play him,” Brown said. “Case was doing well. We’re scoring points and moving the ball as an offense so [we decided to] leave him in.”

In addition to Ash, the Longhorns listed senior wide receiver Mike Davis as questionable because of a sprained ankle injury that occurred early in the game against the Rebels. Davis managed to remain on the field following the injury, but he wore a walking boot after the game.

The potential loss of Davis poses a major threat to the Longhorns’ passing game, as Texas already ruled out sophomore running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson for Saturday’s game. Johnson was unable to play against Ole Miss after hurting his left ankle against BYU one week earlier, and he has yet to shake the walking boot and return to the field.

With Johnson out, Texas named sophomore wide receiver Kendall Sanders as a starter for the second-straight week. Sanders hauled in seven passes for 55 yards against the Rebels and recorded a 51-yard kickoff return.

In addition, the Texas offense is injured up front, as senior right guard Mason Walters, with a hip injury, and junior right tackle Josh Cochran, with a shoulder injury, enter the week listed as questionable. Sophomore linemen Kennedy Estelle and Sedrick Flowers filled in admirably after Walters and Cochran left in the first half of last Saturday’s game, and Brown believes they have the ability to step up again if the starters are inactive.

“Most of the game really, Kennedy Estelle and Sedrick Flowers stepped up and played,” Brown said. “They have to step up and play if the other two can’t.”

Despite these injuries, the Longhorns believe their depth on offense allows them to maintain consistency if any starters are out. Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite refuses to use injuries as an excuse, preaching the need for the Texas backups to step up when pressed into action.

“There is an overall mentality of we have to go with who we’ve got and engineer a win out of the pieces that we have,” Applewhite said. “You can mope and complain, but that’s not where our staff is. Just move on and try to find a way to do it with this.”

Texas was hit with three injuries this weekend against Ole Miss in addition to the two it suffered against Brigham Young University the previous week.

Right guard Mason Walters and right tackle Josh Cochran both left the game in the first half, leaving the offensive line without two of its starters. Walters suffered a hip injury, which puts his status as questionable for this week’s game. Cochran is also an "or" on the depth chart for when Texas takes on the Kansas State this weekend.

Mike Davis suffered an ankle injury against Ole Miss. The wide receiver is listed as "or" with Marcus Johnson on the depth chart. Davis has been seen walking with a boot since Saturday’s game.

Quarterback David Ash was inactive against the Rebels with a shoulder injury, placing Case McCoy in the starting spot. On the depth chart this week, he is listed as "or" with McCoy for the starting role.

Texas’ offensive powerhouse Daje Johnson was also out against the Rebels with an ankle injury. The running back/wide receiver has been seen moving around campus on a scooter and is out for this weekend's game.



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.

Wide receiver Mike Davis almost did not return for his senior season.

After hauling in 57 receptions and leading the Longhorns with 939 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior in 2012, Davis declared for the 2013 NFL Draft in January. Hours later, though, the wide receiver underwent a change of heart and announced his return for one last season.

“I just felt like it was my place to come back,” Davis said. “I felt like I owed Texas that much. I wanted to come back and win more games than I did last year and hopefully get to a BCS Bowl game or national championship.”

The Longhorns are thrilled that Davis decided to come back. As an explosive downfield threat with tremendous yards-after-the-catch ability, he is the focal point of the Texas passing attack. Now that he is a senior, Davis considers himself a leader in the locker room, and his off the field contributions are just as valuable as his on-field production.

“My role on this team is being a leader,” Davis said. “It’s my job to keep everybody going and make sure our younger receivers know what to do just in case one of us goes down. I need to be a leader for this offense and team, period, and give us motivation.”

Davis got off to a fast start in his first two games of 2013, grabbing 13 passes for a team-leading 177 yards and three touchdowns. Despite a fumble in Week 1 and several dropped passes last week, the senior showed an ability to remain focused and unshaken, prompting praise from co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.

“He’s done a great job as a leader and is instrumental on the sideline,” Applewhite said. “When he wasn’t playing well against New Mexico State, he was staying into it, getting others involved. Despite drops, when he was playing well last Saturday against BYU, catching balls and scoring touchdowns, he was doing the same even when we were behind. It’s good to have a senior leader like that on the sideline.”

Applewhite said that, in addition to being the Longhorns biggest deep threat, Davis possesses the skillset to beat defenses underneath the coverage as well. Despite this, the senior wide receiver’s biggest asset is his ability to lead the Texas to quick scores with long catches down the field.

Davis finished third in the Big 12 with 16.5 yards per catch last season, and he averaged 41.1 yards on his seven scoring grabs. The speedy wide out already recorded four receptions of at least 20 yards in his first two games of 2013, and head coach Mack Brown believes his aptitude for catching jump balls is what allows him to be so effective downfield.

“Mike has a knack of jumping up and getting the deep ball,” Brown said. “He’s becoming one of the best in the country at doing that.”

After cementing his decision to return to Texas, the wide receiver trained diligently in the offseason with strength and conditioning coaches Bennie Wylie and Jeff Madden. In addition, he dedicated extra time to perfecting his skillset as a receiver as well as a route runner.

“I hit the weight room hard in the offseason,” Davis said. “I really worked my butt off, and even after workouts I would work on route running and catch some balls and try to perfect my craft as much as I can.”

A productive season would go a long way in solidifying Davis as one of the most prolific wide receivers in Texas history. The senior currently stands sixth in school history with 162 receptions and seventh with 2,203 yards through the air.

Climbing up these leaderboards is far from Davis’ most pressing objective, though. He returned this season intent on leading Texas back to a BCS Bowl, and a monstrous season by the standout receiver would be a major step towards achieving this goal.