Spring practice begins Friday for Texas, which means the program can leave behind an excruciating "what might have been" from the national championship game and start looking forward to a promising 2010.
Well, sort of.
"It's one of those things that is kind of hard to get over, just looking back on it, but you know you have to move on to the next year and try to get back there again," senior defensive end Sam Acho said.
One noble gesture eases the sting for Acho, a first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. All the merchandise -- T-shirts, hats, etc. -- that was produced to celebrate the national championship that never was, was shipped off to Haiti to help the relief effort.
"That touched my heart and it speaks volumes about Texas as a program," Acho said.
Acho figures to be a cornerstone of the program next year, particularly for a defense that welcomes back seven starters. He was honorable mention All-Big 12 in 2009 after recording 63 tackles -- 14 for a loss -- with 10 sacks and four fumble recoveries, which tied for the most nationally.
While many expect the defense to have to carry the offense early -- quarterback Colt McCoy and four other starters are gone -- Acho isn't so sure, noting that the Longhorns "don't rebuild, we reload."
While replacing the winningest quarterback in NCAA history won't be easy, the silver lining of the charcoal gray cloud of seeing McCoy go down early in the 37-21 loss to Alabama was the play of Garrett Gilbert, who will take over the starting job as a true sophomore.
"Garrett did a great job and got a lot of leadership experience from that one game," Acho said. "A couple guys were saying that one game Garrett played gave him a year's worth of experience. So we're excited for next year and for him at quarterback."
Speaking of the future of the program, yes, Acho said, he and his teammates have heard all the talk of the Big Ten and Pac-10 planning to raid the Big 12 for the biggest expansion prize: Texas.
The Dallas native doesn't believe any conference is going to mess with Texas.
"I heard some guys talking about it," he said. "I know it's not going to happen. We're not really worried about that."