The door on the 2012 college football season has been closed for almost two weeks, but that has only opened up the conversation for next season.
For the Texas Longhorns, one of the youngest teams in 2012, they will return a vast number of starters in a season that will be highly scrutinized. In the third year of his rebuild, Mack Brown's place at Texas could be at risk.
Going in his favor, however, are a number of players who figure to be foundations for a Texas team with something to prove in 2013.
Here are the five most important returning contributors for the Longhorns next season.
The quarterback is unequivocally the most important position on the field, and David Ash is no exception to that standard.
In his first full season as the top option, Ash made the strides that now have him as the unquestioned leader of the offense. There were some signs of struggle, but for the most part, Ash displayed the type of progress that can lead to future success on the 40 Acres.
Texas' offense will have a slight change of face with Major Applewhite and Darrell Wyatt now sharing the role of offensive coordinator, but there is little question that Ash is the most important piece of the puzzle for the offense heading into next season.
Ash will be helped out by the return of a number of playmakers around him, but the spotlight will be on Ash to exceed expectations in a critical year for the Texas program.
The Longhorns already face the challenge of replacing Alex Okafor, who shined in his final game in a Texas uniform, but Jackson Jeffcoat returning for his senior season should help weather the storm considerably.
Jeffcoat will be under the spotlight after undergoing surgery to repair a torn pectoral. Before sustaining the injury, the talented defensive end began finding a rhythm, efforts that will have to be seen again for a Texas defense looking to improve dramatically next season.
It is no news that having a dynamic and dominant defensive end in the Big 12 is critical, and the Longhorns will be relying on Jeffcoat to put in a monster season, which also means staying off the injury report.
The 2011 season was promising for Carrington Byndom, but his 2012 campaign hardly yielded the same results.
Byndom had cemented a foundation for a Thorpe award-kind of season, but after struggling to match his standards last season, the senior-to-be will be an experienced anchor for the Longhorns' defense.
Weakness at the linebacker position could have compromised the integrity of the rest of the back end of the defense, but going into a 2013 season that has to have better consistency, Byndom will have to provide that veteran leadership and set the performance bar.
Having played opposite to Carrington Byndom for the two years he has been on campus, Quandre Diggs will provide another dose of veteran leadership in the defensive backfield.
Diggs is expected to move to safety for the upcoming season, with the hopes of maintaining the level of play left behind by Kenny Vaccaro. Diggs' versatility to play on the back end or slip into the nickel will allow a much better composition of defenders in the secondary.
The soon-to-be junior has been a magnet for big plays, and Diggs will have a chance for many more with more space with which to work.
Mike Davis' decision to return for his senior season cannot be overlooked or understated.
Davis' deep-threat ability was the eventual end game to a passing attack that struggled to maintain consistency all year, and if he matches the progression he made from 2011 to 2012 this coming year, the Longhorns could offer an explosive passing offense to complement a strong ground game.
Many expected Davis to emerge in 2011, but it was in 2012 where he made his biggest strides. Although he flirted with the NFL Draft, Davis' return is a huge piece for the Texas offense in 2013.