OK, if Kirk Bohls, the esteemed college football writer for the Austin American-Statesman, agrees with me, I must not be crazy.
"Jordan Shipley is at the top of my Heisman Trophy list unapologetically. That is no typo," Bohls wrote in a column yesterday. "No player in college football has been more spectacular, more consistent, more important to his team than the Texas wide receiver/kick returner."
Colt McCoy gets all the glory, but his roommate, Shipley, is Texas' best player. Heck, he may even be the best player in the country.
A sixth-year senior who missed all of 2004 and 2005 with injuries, Shipley isn't much to look at. Checking in at 6'0" and 190 pounds–as the media guide flies–Shipley won't wow you coming off the bus. I don't know if Mel Kiper or Todd McShay have ever said a word about him.
Yet, what he lacks in "measureables" Shipley more than makes up for with guts, smarts, concentration and a healthy amount of quickness. He also owns a unique skill set that make him a force in almost any situation on the football field. He even holds on extra points and field goals. Think Wes Welker in burnt orange.
Just ask the Oklahoma Sooners how tough Shipley is to contain.
In the 2008 Red River Shootout, Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis called Shipley's number time and again. It got to the point where it started to look like he and McCoy were playing pitch and catch on their front lawn. By the end of the game, Shipley had burned the OU defense for 11 receptions, 112 yards and a touchdown catch. Oh, and he also took a first-half kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, in what proved to be the game's pivotal play.
Shipley's work in the OU game wasn't a one-time thing, either. He had 15 grabs for 168 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma State. He also returned a punt for a touchdown the Longhorns' only loss of the year at Texas tech. Shipley finished the year with 89 catches for 1,060 yards, an average of just under 12 yards per reception.
This year, Shipley has played an even bigger role, turning into UT's featured offensive weapon. Through five games, he has already gone over 100 yards receiving three times, averaging 12.4 yards per catch.
When the Longhorns were struggling to catch fire last weekend in a flat performance against Colorado, it was Shipley who provided a spark. He finished with 147 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches, which included a couple spectacular circus grabs.
Although he lines up all over the field in a number of different formations, Shipley may be at his best when Davis moves him into the slot to run quick hitters and short hook patterns. Working out of the spread, the deadly accurate McCoy excels at throwing these high-percentage routes, which enable Shipley to take advantage of favorable matchups against inside defenders.
Heading into the 2009 Red River game, Shipley versus the Sooner secondary and–gulp–linebacking corp should be the key battle for OU's defense. Take Shipley away and force McCoy to look for other options, and it gives OU a shot at the upset. If Shipley goes off again like he did last season... Well, at least he can't get a seventh year.