John Burt burned Notre Dame cornerback Nick Coleman in the first quarter of the season opener Sept. 4, using his track-strengthened legs to power right past the sophomore.
Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele floated the ball right into Burt’s hands, but a second after touching the ball, Burt’s hands rose to his facemask. Longhorn fans’ hands climbed to the top of their heads in agony. He dropped it.
Two quarters later, Burt burned Coleman again. Buechele placed the ball perfectly into his outstretched arms, again. This time the ball didn’t hit the turf, and Burt took it the distance for a 72-yard score.
But the dual-sport athlete from Tallahassee, Florida, hasn’t visited the endzone since. Instead, he’s looked more like the player from the first quarter against Notre Dame rather than the one from the third. He had a critical dropped pass against Oklahoma, one that prevented the chains from moving.
“Sometimes guys have those drops,” Strong said. “The big one was that third down, we were driving and he was wide open and he dropped it and then we have to give up the punt.”
Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said on Oct. 4 that Burt has been battling a hand injury since the UTEP game Sept. 10. He said the ailment has progressively gotten better, but Burt’s stats don’t show it.
He recorded 111 yards and the touchdown against Notre Dame, but he hasn’t topped 40 yards in a game since that season opener.
Couple his drop in production with an increase in dropped passes and a season low six receiving yards against Oklahoma, and it’s safe to say Burt is struggling through a sophomore slump. But Buechele isn’t worried about it.
“John Burt, he’s still a great player,” Buechele said. “Nothing against him at all. We just have to keep going in. Other guys are stepping up. I mean, JB is going to continue to work hard and keep doing his thing.”
Buechele is right in saying other receivers have gotten the job done during Burt’s decline. Four different receivers have two touchdowns on the season. Only three Texas wideouts has multiple touchdowns in all of 2015, and nobody had more than two.
Junior receiver Dorian Leonard caught a 45-yard touchdown last week against Oklahoma, his second of the season. He only has six catches all year, but he makes the most of them. He said it gives him confidence to know that there are so many players on the team capable of making plays.
“Whenever we see someone else out there, we’re so close in our room, when we see someone else out there making plays, it’s like seeing your little brother at his game scoring his first touchdown,” Leonard said. “We haven’t really had a problem with the ball getting spread around.”
Junior receiver Armanti Foreman has partially filled the void left by Burt as well. He’s the team’s leader in receptions with 18, shattering his previous career-high of 11 as a sophomore.
Foreman, who also caught a touchdown pass in the Red River Shootout, echoed Leonard’s comment in saying that the wide receiver room is very competitive and if one player slows down as Burt has, another one is ready to step up.
“We go to work everyday,” Foreman said. “We give our best effort. You know, there’s a lot of talent in the room. I feel like just use that and we just feed off of each other.”