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December 14, 2012
5 Longhorns to Watch: Offense
When you examine the offensive statistics for Texas, a glaring shortfall becomes evident - the lack of superstars for the Longhorns on that side of the ball. There is no quarterback close to the level of Vince Young or Colt McCoy, no 700-yard rusher and no 1,000-yard receiver.
Lack of big-play performers is a key reason Texas is 48th in the nation in rushing offense (176 yards per game) and 40th in passing offense, ranking a dismal sixth in the 10-team Big 12 in both categories. Here are the five most important Texas offensive players:
1. David Ash/Case McCoy (QB): Inconsistent performances from the most important position in football have hurt the Longhorns all season. Really, the quarterback position has been a sore point for the Longhorns since McCoy was knocked out of the 2009 national championship game by Alabama.
Garrett Gilbert was thought to be the successor, but he struggled in 2010 when Texas went 5-7 and transferred to SMU in October of 2011. Ash and McCoy have sought to pick up the pieces with mixed results. Together, the duo has completed 68.4 percent of their passes (247-of-361) for 23 touchdowns.
But untimely turnovers (10 interceptions) have frequently stalled drives. Ash started the first 11 games until an injury forced McCoy to go the distance against Kansas State in the regular season finale.
Ash was blazing hot early (27 touchdowns in 49 possession in first five games), but like most Texas players, fell off after the Oklahoma debacle (63-21 loss). McCoy, younger brother of Colt, was 26-of-34 for 314 yards and two touchdowns in the 42-24 loss at Kansas State. However, two costly turnovers led to 14 KSU points, a microcosm of the Longhorns season on offense.
2. Johnathan Gray (RB): Despite being a true freshman, Gray leads Texas with 683 rushing yards on 142 carries, an average of 4.8 yards per carry. He was the nation's No. 1 running back prospect (and No. 5 overall) last season and set a new national scoring record (205 touchdowns) en route to rushing for 3,891 yards and 65 touchdowns in 2011.
He started his career as a reserve behind Joe Bergeron (565 total rushing yards, but just 15 in last two games) until emerging as the starter in Week 8 at Kansas. He rushed for 100 or more yards in each of his first two starts (111 at Kansas, 106 at Texas Tech), but has discovered like most young phenoms that life in major college football can be harsher than high school. He struggled with just 29 yards on 12 carries at Kansas State.
3. Mike Davis (WR): Davis is the leading receiver for the Longhorns with 54 receptions for 909 yards (16.8 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns, but is part of a two-headed monster in the passing game along with Jaxson Shipley (51 receptions for 649 yards and six touchdowns).
Davis peaked in early November when he had four catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-22 win at Texas Tech. He was held to three catches for 18 yards by Kansas State.
The matchup between Davis and Shipley on one side and Oregon State cornerbacks Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds should be worth the price of admission since the OSU duo are ranked among the national leaders for passes defended (breakups & interceptions) with a combined 27.
4. D.J. Monroe (KR): Monroe is one of the top kick returners in Texas history and is averaging 26.5 yards in 17 returns this season. He has three career kickoff returns for touchdowns, most in Texas history.
He had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter against Oklahoma State earlier this season. Monroe has also rushed 16 times for 153 yards (9.6 yards per carry!) and three touchdowns and caught five passes, so he is a versatile performer. Monroe shared kickoff return duties with Marquise Goodwin (13 returns for 327 yards) during the regular season.
5. Whoever replaces Trey Hopkins at guard: Hopkins, who started all 12 games at left guard during the regular season, suffered a stress fracture in his right leg during the Kansas State game and won't play in the bowl game. It's a huge blow for a pedestrian Longhorns offensive line that has struggled to open holes this season because many Texas analysts viewed Hopkins as the team's best offensive lineman.
Hopkins, rated one of the top offensive line prospects in the country when he signed with Texas and a second-team All-Big 12 selection by the coaches, moved back inside to his natural position of guard after playing right tackle last season. His listed back-up on the depth chart for the Kansas State game was redshirt freshman Sedrick Flowers.
Junior Thomas Ashcraft and reserve tackle Luke Poehlmann could also compete for the starting spot. Whoever replaces Hopkins, who had started 29 straight games, has his work cut out for him. Oregon State may scheme to take advantage of Hopkins' absence.
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