AUSTIN — Texas receiver Quan Cosby was making a left turn in the end zone. Colt McCoy was throwing right.
That’s when the four years that Cosby spent in the Anaheim Angels’ farm system kicked in.
Cosby turned around, took his eye off the football, and in the process tripped to the ground. Still, the ball glided right over an Oklahoma State safety and fell right in his hands to put the Longhorns ahead 21-7 late in the second quarter against the Cowboys last month.
“I felt like I was an outfielder going back to the wall,” Cosby said. “Colt threw a perfect ball and there was nobody else who could have caught that.”
Cosby and fellow receiver Jordan Shipley might not be like the physical targets on every other high-octane Big 12 offense. Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell has 6-foot-5 Michael Crabtree. Oklahoma State has the speedy Dez Bryant, Missouri has Jeremy Maclin. Almost every one of them is projected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft whenever they leave college.
Shipley and Cosby? Neither one stands over 6 feet tall.
Still, they’re both able to make enough catches to give McCoy a 78.0 percent completion rate, and the two have combined for 17 of Texas’ 30 receiving touchdowns.
Coach Mack Brown lamented over the lack of national media attention given to the two receivers in comparison to the hype surrounding McCoy and his Heisman candidacy. Brown’s explanation: their height.
“I don’t think Quan and Jordan are getting the national exposure that I think they deserve for what they’re doing,” Brown said. “I think it’s because they’re little, probably. You see 6-3, and 6-2, and 6-5 guys. And these guys go out there and they’re making plays and everybody says they’re not fast enough and not tall enough and they just keep defying everybody.”
The two receivers make just as many plays as their taller counterparts for a number of reasons. First, there’s the chemistry between McCoy and the two seniors with whom he has worked since he redshirted his freshman year. Then there are the other skills.
For Shipley, it’s his understanding of plays and the ability to break defensive backs out of coverage. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis described a play where Shipley led his two defensive backs to the left sideline, away from where McCoy was going to throw the ball.
“He threw a naked route into their boundary to his right,” Davis said. “When you stop the tape, there are two defenders on him right here and he led them right outside the back door, kind of like shooting dove.”
Most of Cosby’s abilities come from his baseball background. Besides the play last Saturday, most of his catches are with hands in his face or a defensive back hanging off his side. Four times this season Cosby has caught the ball while drawing a pass interference call.
“I think it’s more of a concentration thing,” Cosby said. “It’s just like trying to see the ball out of a pitcher’s hand and following the ball all the way to the end. That’s another comparison where the two sports complement each other.”
Davis noticed that Cosby’s strength allows the Longhorns to use his catches to generate four or five yards, just like a running back.
“He’s extremely strong, he’s not real tall, but he’s extremely strong,” Davis said. “When we flip the ball out in a run-pass option and just throw it to him, he’s not been stopped for less than four yards. He gets on the edge of the defensive back and gets forward and allows us to treat it like a running play.”