Texas Football: 2012 Team Awards for the Longhorns
With a thrilling 31-27 win over Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl, the Texas Longhorns sprung into their offseason with a healthy dose of momentum following a season littered with blemishes.
Consistent in his "step in the right direction" approach, Mack Brown's team indeed has taken a leap forward by improving on their 8-5 mark in 2011 with a 9-4 record this season. Although still quite a ways from BCS contention, the Longhorns have assembled the right kind of talent on the 40 Acres and now it is time to develop it fully.
As with any season finale, there comes opportunity of reviewing the entire campaign to see what went well and who was responsible.
Just ticks into the new year, we look back at the team awards for the 2012 Longhorns.
All statistics retrieved from mackbrown-texasfootball.com
Offensive Most Valuable Player: David Ash
There can be a legitimate argument made for the efforts from a couple of running backs as the offense's most valuable player, as they helped buoy the Texas offense while the passing game gathered itself.
But, at the end of the day, the play from the quarterback has ultimately determined just how much success the Longhorns would have this season.
Although the defensive efforts are part of another story entirely, when Ash typically played well, Texas performed much more effectively.
2012 Stats: 214 of 318 passes completed, 2699 yards, 19 touchdowns, 8 interceptions.
No, his numbers don't exactly scream Heisman candidate, but his outing in the Alamo Bowl certainly helped his cause as the Longhorns' Offensive MVP.
Defensive Most Valuable Player: Alex Okafor
Was there any doubt about Alex Okafor's place as Texas' most valuable defensive player?
The senior defensive end was an anchor to a defense that was ranked worst in franchise history. That's a whole lot of stink and, for a moment, Okafor's 4.5-sack performance against Oregon State almost made everyone forget about it.
So, while it is hard to praise a piece of a defense that gave up the most yards in the history of the Longhorns, there is none more deserving than Okafor.
In his final game, the NFL-bound pass rusher was determined to go out with a bang at Texas and he did that in full force.
2012 Stats: 68 tackles, 18 TFL for 98 yards, 12.5 sacks for 90 yards, 18 QB hurries, four forced fumbles, one block
Offensive Most Improved Player: Mike Davis
The emergence of Davis this season has been a welcome one for a passing offense that has really struggled to develop playmakers.
The junior receiver was expected to make that "step in the right direction," but some inconsistency at quarterback, along with off-the-field distractions curtailed Davis' progression in the offense.
But, this season, Davis' full set of athleticism, ball skills and deep-threat ability came to fruition, as he put up career numbers across the board.
2012 Stats: 57 receptions, 939 yards, seven touchdowns, 72.2 yards per game
Defensive Most Improved Player: Kendall Thompson
The numbers alone showcase Kendall Thompson's development as a legitimate option at linebacker moving forward.
2012: 58 tackles, nine tackles for loss for 33 yard, three sacks for 19 yards, three QB hurries
The sophomore was thrust into a linebacker unit that was defined by inexperience, but Thompson's athleticism at the point of attack is what will keep him at the top of the depth chart.
Surrounded by a number of other young players, Thompson figures to be a critical piece as the Longhorns try to understand just where their defense went sour in 2012.
With experienced linebackers running the show in 2011, the Longhorns fielded a top-15 defense. But, when those veterans moved on to the NFL, Texas put up its worst defensive numbers in the program's history.
Thompson was part of that putrid defense, but in the process of rebuilding the program, Mack Brown has to take the good with the bad and Thompson flashed plenty of the former to go with the latter.
Offensive Freshman of the Year: Johnathan Gray
When Johnathan Gray first arrived on campus after being one of the most sought-after running back recruits, he entered a backfield already littered with talented underclassmen. Indeed, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, the two incumbents, earned a heavy dose of playing time as first-year players.
After Brown suffered an ankle injury that hampered his production, Gray slid perfectly into a featured back role and his improving numbers solidified his case for the most influential offensive freshman this season.
Granted, the candidates were few and far between compared to last year, but Gray arrived with high expectations and he surely exceeded them to set up what should be a critical sophomore campaign.
2012 Stats: 149 carries, 720 yards, three touchdowns, 53.9 yards per game
Defensive Freshman of the Year: Peter Jinkens
While much of the offense has featured underclassmen, freshmen in particular, over the past two seasons, the Texas defense has had few first-year players become impact contributors in recent seasons.
At linebacker, where the Longhorns faced the challenge of replacing two NFL players in Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, Texas looked to a collection of young players and had to live with the mistakes.
Jinkens was slowly worked into the mix and, as the season wore on, his speed and athleticism shined, as he likely solidified himself as a piece of the puzzle for the coming seasons.
2012 Stats: 28 tackles, three tackles for six yards, one safety, one interception
Special Teams Player of the Year: Dalton Santos/Alex King
Call it a shared honor between freshman linebacker Dalton Santos and senior punter Alex King, both of whom offered impact plays on several occasions throughout the season.
Santos immediately caught fans' attention with his determination on special teams coverage, constantly delivering highlight-reel blows to invigorate an otherwise-stale coverage unit. The 6'3, 252 hulking middle linebacker did earn some playing time on defense, but his greatest contributions were on special teams.
In a season where the kicking game left much to be desired, Alex King delivered in some of the biggest ways in the punting game. The former Duke transfer oftentimes was the highlight of special teams plays, serving to switch field position with frequent success.
Santos' 2012 Stats: 26 tackles, three tackles for loss - six yards, one QB hurry
King's 2012 Stats: 43 punt, 45.3 average, Long of 65, 11 50-yard punts, 16 inside-20
Coach of the Year: Darrell Wyatt
Not many names on the Texas coaching staff deserve high praise, given the lack of production and execution from a number of positions.
But Wide Receivers Coach Darrell Wyatt had his corps develop into multidimensional players, contributing heavily in both the passing game and the running game.
One of the most noticeable improvements from the pass catchers since Wyatt arrived from Kansas has been the downfield blocking.
Jaxon Shipley and Marquise Goodwin deserve standout recognition for their commitment to the offense, and Mike Davis' long-waited emergence as a deep threat has only added to the list of meaningful additions that Wyatt has brought to the Texas program.
Deservedly so, Wyatt recently was promoted to co-offensive coordinator, running the show with Major Applewhite.
Most Valuable Player: Alex Okafor
In spite of the team's collective defensive shortcomings throughout most of the season, Okafor is the best candidate for Team MVP.
Sure, the defense underperformed for the most part but, in light of the injuries to both Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat, there were only a few sturdy heads that could have kept the entire unit from getting pulverized.
Kenny Vaccaro held his own on the back end, but it was Okafor's season-long efforts up front, culminating in a dominant Alamo Bowl performance that truly pinned the senior defensive end as the most valuable asset for the Longhorns this season.