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Texas freshman's 'freakish athletic ability' sparks Longhorns offense to open 2019 season

This Texas Longhorns freshman has four touchdown catches – tied for the team lead through the first four games. But who is this new face making plays?

AUSTIN, Texas — In ABC's most watched college football game so far this season, an unfamiliar Texas Longhorn to its fan base emerged and began a journey to perhaps becoming a household name in Austin someday. 

This Longhorn's name: Jake Smith. 

With 2:43 left in the third quarter against then No. 6 ranked LSU, Smith caught a 20-yard threaded needle from Sam Ehlinger for his first collegiate touchdown. What better way to make a splash than on national television against a top 10 team? Smith's touchdown catch cut UT's deficit to 23-21

WATCH: Freshman wide receiver Jake Smith scores first collegiate touchdown vs. LSU


HIGHLIGHTS: LSU survives late Texas heroics, win 45-38

Burrow's 4 TD passes lead LSU over Texas 45-38

Texas may have lost to LSU in the end, but Smith was not done making a name for himself in the Longhorns' offense. 

With senior wide receiver Collin Johnson out against Rice the following week, Smith had his breakout performance of the season. The freshman sliced and diced the Owls pass defense from the slot, leading the team with six catches, 75 yards and two touchdowns. 

His first touchdown against Rice came on a 53-yard pass in the middle of the Owls defense, and his second was 12-yard pitch-and-catch with Ehlinger in the second quarter.


HIGHLIGHTS: No. 12 Texas Longhorns dominate Rice Owls in Houston, 48-13

Ehlinger throws 3 TD passes, No. 12 Texas beats Rice 48-13

Texas Longhorns bounce back with dominant win against Rice Owls. Here's how the Longhorns look moving forward.

WATCH: Jake Smith catches 53-yard bomb from Sam Ehlinger

WATCH: Jake Smith scores 12-yard touchdown against Rice.

"My confidence is steadily rising," Smith said after the Rice game. "I'm just building on that confidence every week." 

Ehlinger complemented the freshman wide receiver after the team's dominating win against the Owls.

"(Jake's) a freak," Ehlinger said. "Freakish speed. Freakish athletic ability. So, for him to come in and learn the way that he has and worked the way that he has, every game he'll continue to get more comfortable. I've loved being around him." 

Fast forward one more week against Oklahoma State, Smith scored again – his third straight game with a touchdown and fourth score overall for the season. Smith's four touchdown catches is tied for the team lead through the first four games. Smith's 13 catches on the year ranks second on the team to only senior wide receiver Devin Duvernay's 39, which is the second highest total in the NCAA through the first five weeks. Smith's four touchdown catches are also the most by any freshman so far in 2019.

WATCH: Jake Smith scores team-leading fourth touchdown of season

RELATED: RECAP: Ehlinger leads No. 12 Texas past Oklahoma State 36-30

HIGHLIGHTS: No. 12 Texas Longhorns break four-game losing skid to OSU, win 36-30

So, who is this new face making plays in the Longhorns offense? Where did he come from? 

Smith came to Austin from Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, Arizona as a four-star wide receiver. He was also named the 2018 National Gatorade Player of the Year. Smith was selected to the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game, named to the All-USA second team as an athlete and All-USA Arizona first team all-purpose, and was chosen as one of five finalists for the Ed Doherty Award, which honors the best high school player in Arizona in 2018.  

Smith committed to Texas on June 3, 2018, announcing he'll bring his talents to Austin from his Twitter page. He signed his letter of intent on Dec. 19, 2018.

With a bye week now under his belt, Smith and the Longhorns will travel to Morgantown in their "first true hostile environment" of the 2019 season. We'll see if Smith continues his upward trend in his inaugural season at Texas. 

And if he does continue to produce in big moments against top tier talent like LSU, don't be surprised if in a couple years, we're talking about him among the great wide receivers in program history.


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