Texas WR coach Jay Norvell has big challenge at new job

Jay Norvell certainly isn't the first to cross the Red River and coach for the other side. But it's still a little odd when it happens.

After a disappointing 8-5 season, Oklahoma fired Norvell along with fellow co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. Norvell, however, quickly found new work at Texas, turning in his crimson gear for burnt orange.

Now, he's focused on rebuilding a Longhorns wide receiving unit that is one of the most inexperienced in the Big 12.

"They're learning," Norvell told reporters Monday. "What really comes down to being a playmaker is confidence. We have a lot of athletic players, and now we have to be confident players. Confidence comes from knowing what to do and knowing you have put in the time to do it right. Not only does it have to be that way individually, but collectively as a unit. That's what we're going through the process of. We started it in the spring, and now we have to master all the techniques and put the pieces together as a unit. We have to put the work in to do it."

Even though it didn't end well, Norvell has a track record of putting together standout receiving corps. He mentored Ryan Broyles, who broke the FBS career receptions record. He also recruited Kenny Stills, who has developed into an NFL starter. Others like Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard turned into all-conference performers as well.

This, however, figures to be one of the most challenging seasons Norvell has faced as a receivers coach. John Harris and Jaxon Shipley are gone, leaving Marcus Johnson as the only returning receiver with more than 10 receptions last season.

Still, Norvell feels this is a group with potential. Jacorey Warrick and Armanti Foreman are both former ESPN 300 signees. So too are incoming freshmen Ryan Newsome and John Burt.

"We’ve got some young freshmen coming in that will get a lot of opportunities in the summer and training camp," Norvell said. "We’ll see how their level of competition can help the other guys."

Quarterback is obviously a huge question mark heading into the season. But nothing will help Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard more than if Norvell's receivers can consistently deliver big plays.

"I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can do that," Norvell said. "I don’t think those guys are born. I think they are made. It’s a matter of group execution. Big plays come when a lot of people do their job."