The Texas secondary cannot catch a break.
Last week they went up against one of the best trios of receivers in the country, Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds of Oklahoma. Now the defense gets the pleasure of going up against the talented receiver in college, and a projected top-five pick in the NFL draft this year, Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon is a physical specimen at wide out. His 6-foot-1, 211-pounds frame is strong enough to outmuscle any corner he comes up against, and it is athletic enough to out-jump every corner in FBS.
But what really separates him from the other receivers the college game is his elite ability to run the ball after the catch. When he brings down the ball he immediately turns into a running back and an elusive one at that. He makes cuts in tight spaces and is strong enough to shrug off any corner or safety that tries to make an arm tackle.
But it’s not only the people in the secondary that respect Blackmon’s ability. Other receivers, such as Texas freshman Jaxon Shipley, do too.
“He’s incredible,” Shipley said. “He is one of those guys who is a ball hawk. He is going to go up and get the ball. I have watched him for the last couple of years. He’s one of those truly great receivers.”
Shipley has watched him from home the last couple of seasons in high school, but the Texas secondary has seen him up close and personal the last two years and not with good results.
In 2009, in Blackmon’s freshman year, Texas did a decent job of controlling his playmaking ability, holding him to only 38 yards and a touchdown. Then, in his sophomore campaign, he made the Texas defense look silly going for 145 yards and a score. Perhaps even more impressively, he did that against former Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, who was an early second-round pick in the 2010 draft.
“He’s as good as I’ve ever seen because he’s so physical,” said head coach Mack Brown. “Last year, Aaron Williams plays the fade as well as it can be played, and he reaches above him and catches the ball with his big, strong body and hands and just runs off and leaves him for about a 60, 70-yard touchdown.”
Williams wasn’t the only corner that Blackmon dismantled in his sophomore campaign, he did it to every school and secondary he came against. Blackmon went for more than 100 yards in all 12 games he played on his way to a 1,782-yard season and a Blietnikoff award for being the best receiver in college football.
Blackmon hasn’t slowed down much off of last season’s pace in 2011 either, he’s already caught 534 yards and six touchdowns this year, while routinely seeing double teams.
Blackmon is also key to their offense in other ways besides his outstanding catching skills. He gives defensive coordinators fits because he mandates more than one player to cover him at all times, which frees up the other receivers for one-on-one coverage and will usually keep eight men out of the box to help the running game.
The threat of Blackmon is constant, and the Cowboys have used it to their fullest advantage on offense.
The attention paid to him is one of the main reasons the Cowboys have the No. 1 offense in the country, averaging 51.4 points a game.
Texas will certainly pay plenty of attention to him when the Cowboys head into Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon. They might even have a corner and a safety meet him when he gets off the plane on Friday, so they don’t lose track of him at all in Austin.