Central (CA) 2021 four-star wide receiver Xavier Worthy first came across my radar back in March when I was prepping my piece on scouting outside wide receiver offers. He’s 6-foot-1, so I looked at his film to see if he could stick on the outside.
But once I started watching his full games (you can find almost all of Central’s games on YouTube), it was immediately clear he was built for the slot. Even though he didn’t fit the article I was writing, I watched two of his games because he jumped off the screen.
I wish I had written about him back then when he was a middling three-star because it was clear he was about to blow up. That came to pass this spring as 247Sports boosted him to No. 95 overall, which raised his composite ranking to 175th in the country. There’s still room for Worthy to rise since Rivals hasn’t moved him off their average three-star ranking yet.
That three-star ranking would be understandable after Worthy’s sophomore football campaign, where he only had 10 catches for 259 yards. As a junior, though, Worthy exploded. He caught 54 passes for 992 yards and 16 touchdowns along the way to an undefeated season and a CIF Division I-AA Championship. He also returned kicks and lined up as a wildcat quarterback sometimes, as his team sought to get the ball in his hands.
While his sophomore football season didn’t jump off the page, his track season did. The main asset for the 6-foot-1, 160-pound Worthy is his speed, which has translated into one of the best track times in the state of California. Last spring, he posted a 10.55 100-meter dash and finished eighth in the state championships as the only sophomore competing.
He uses that speed effectively on the gridiron as well. Worthy is especially adept at getting to his top speed quickly. When faced with soft coverage from the slot, you can witness his elite acceleration that helps him blow past zone coverage or get off-man defenders off balance.
This play shows his quickness off the line even though the ball doesn’t go to him. In an empty set as the No. 3 guy (inner-most receiver to the offensive line), his burst helps clear out space underneath for the No. 2 receiver. However, if the play wasn’t drawn up for the quarterback to dump it off, Worthy had blown past the defensive back who had opened up his hips too late and would’ve been open for a deep shot.
Worthy also has scary change of direction skills that make him a threat in the kick return game. The opposing team only kicked to him once in the two games I watched, but Worthy made them pay for their mistake.
First, Worthy makes a sharp cut to avoid a tackler, while at the same time maintaining his balance as a guy dives at his ankles. But then comes my favorite part. Worthy, who is almost stopped after stepping over the ankle-grabber, immediately darts to his right, leaving No. 15 grasping at air and wondering if Worthy was ever even in front of him at all.
You can see a lot of that shiftiness on Worthy’s junior highlight film.
Putting the acceleration and change of direction together freed up Worthy to catch three touchdowns on essentially the same route in his game against Turlock. Facing a three- to five-yard cushion, Worthy varied how fast he stemmed his route before breaking into a fade to the outside.
Sometimes Worthy would go quickly with a subtle inside move to shake the defensive back.
But other times, Worthy would chop his feet more to draw in the defensive back, before bending around him and getting wide open.
There are some route-running intricacies Worthy could work on to make him even more polished as a receiver. Sometimes, he would use a short one-step stem against a cushion, which allows the defensive back time to recover and flip their hips back into a position to cover Worthy.
On curl and comeback routes, Worthy has to improve on his ability to break down and turn quickly without giving it away to the defender. The few times he ran these routes, he would lean back as he was about to turn and drag his feet to a stop. This telegraphs his intentions to alert defensive backs, who can jump the route.
Instead, Worthy needs to pump his arms, chop his feet more and sink his hips through his turn to disguise his move and turn around smoother.
Seeing these little areas where Worthy can improve actually makes me even more excited about his career at Michigan. Under Josh Gattis’ tutelage, he will be able to tap into his vast potential and hopefully turn into a game-breaking offensive weapon.
I’ve seen comparisons to DeSean Jackson and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy, which are certainly lofty but do speak to his elite athleticism and speed. Worthy is still pretty light, so hopefully he can pack on some muscle during his senior year so he can be better prepared for the rigors of a Big Ten schedule.
Regardless, I think Worthy can make an immediate impact at Michigan by returning kicks or punts as a freshman if the coaches want to take something off Giles Jackson’s plate. Jackson, Mike Sainristil and A.J. Henning will be ahead of Worthy in the slot depth chart, but as the tallest of those three by at least three inches, he can also see some time on the outside. Either way, he should see some time in the rotation early on.