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Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: Texas

By David Ubben


Record: 7-5 (4-5)

This season was all about change for the Longhorns, and they made plenty in the offseason, bringing in offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to inject some youth and new ideas into Mack Brown's coaching staff, as well as a handful of new assistants.

Both were as advertised, though Diaz's side of the ball showed much better results. For a fourth consecutive season, Texas led the Big 12 in total defense, and did so by a wide, wide margin, exactly 67 yards a game. It also finished second in the Big 12 in scoring defense, limiting big plays all season and keeping a struggling offense within reach of several games.

Offensively, youth and injuries were the story all season. Garrett Gilbert made two starts before ceding the quarterback spot to inexperienced sophomore Case McCoy and true freshman David Ash. Their top weapons? True freshman running back Malcolm Brown and receiver Jaxon Shipley, as well as sophomore receiver Mike Davis. That wasn't a recipe for success, at least immediately. Texas didn't bounce back all the way from its 5-7 season in 2010, but it was better this year and much more focused offensively. Injuries to Brown and Shipley, as well as fellow freshman back Joe Bergeron, handcuffed Ash and McCoy late in the season, but the Longhorns had a season to build on.

Offensive MVP: Malcolm Brown, running back. Brown was slowed late with injuries, but helped Texas jump out to a 5-2 start, rushing for over 100 yards in three games over a five game stretch before suffering a toe injury. He didn't play in three games, and rushed for only 78 yards in the two games he appeared in over the final five, but still finished with a team-high 707 yards and five touchdowns, offering lots of hope for the future.

Defensive MVP: Emmanuel Acho, linebacker. Acho, a Lott Trophy finalist, racked up 109 tackles for the Longhorns, and was its most consistent performer, especially with a late charge of at least 12 tackles in four consecutive games before making just four against Baylor's wide-open offense last week. He also had 13.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, forcing a fumble and providing a lot of necessary senior leadership for a solid defense.

Turning point: Gilbert's benching. Quite frankly, Texas looked headed for another 5-7 season after the Longhorns struggled early against BYU, falling behind 13-3 while Gilbert tossed a pair of awful-looking picks. In came McCoy and Ash, who tag-teamed the QB spot for most of the rest of the season, and the duo helped the Horns' rally for a gutsy 17-16 win that included a Jaxon Shipley touchdown pass.

What’s next: Time to build on offense. Ash's decision-making and McCoy's lack of measurables and arm strength present big, big questions about whether either can be the quarterback of the future at Texas. Shipley, Brown, Davis and Bergeron will all be solid. One of the nation's top QBs, Connor Brewer, and running backs, Johnathan Gray, are on the way at Texas, but ultimately, Texas can't go very far in the Big 12 without solid quarterback play. Diaz and Harsin were solid hires who will get better and better, but the Longhorns need a quarterback.