Texas Football: Midseason Awards for the Players and Coaches

Zach SheltonFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2013

Texas Football: Midseason Awards for the Players and Coaches

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    Mack Brown's Texas team in 4-2 and deserving of a Gatorade bath in spite of it.
    Mack Brown's Texas team in 4-2 and deserving of a Gatorade bath in spite of it.Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Six games down, six games to go for the Texas Longhorns. Sitting at a strange 4-2 mark, their 2013 season is certainly shaping up as one of the more interesting campaigns in the country.

    If you told a Longhorn fan Texas would start 4-2 and be happy about it, he or she would probably smack you—especially when you said that Mack Brown would still be the head coach through it all.

    It is, in fact, the current situation in Austin. It has taken a midseason firing and an upset win over Oklahoma, but Texas is 4-2 and happy about it. If the Longhorns win out, they win the Big 12.

    Granted, there is a lot of football to be played before those hopes can be realized, though it is definitely one of the more peculiar storylines in this wild college football season.

    That said, it is fitting that the team's best players and coaching performances have been every bit as unique.

Offensive MVP: RB Johnathan Gray

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    Johnathan Gray has looked great through Texas' first six games.
    Johnathan Gray has looked great through Texas' first six games.Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

    No matter how the second half of the season unfolds, the Texas program and fans can be happy about the development of Johnathan Gray, the team's offensive MVP.

    Building on a solid freshman year, Gray has emerged as Texas' best player and one of the best backs in the conference. He is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and leads the team in rushing as well as all-purpose yards. With 562 yards, he is comfortably on pace to be the program's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2007.

    The biggest difference in Gray's game is some newfound power. He has always had breakaway speed and the ability to cut on a dime, but he struggled to shed tackles as a freshman. Now he is getting it done both inside and outside, allowing him to live up to his designation as a 5-star recruit.

    Over his past five games, Gray has averaged 106.8 yards and has scored four touchdowns. He is only going to get better from here.

    Runner-up: WR Mike Davis

Defensive MVP: DE Cedric Reed

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    Defensive end Cedric Reed is having a breakout sophomore season.
    Defensive end Cedric Reed is having a breakout sophomore season.Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

    Taking the place of Alex Okafor, bookend Cedric Reed was handed one of the toughest tasks on the team. He has taken the opportunity and knocked it out of the park.

    Reed has been Texas' most consistent and tenacious defender since the first game of the season. He leads the team in tackles, pass breakups and forced fumbles. He is top two in every category but interceptions and fluky fumble recoveries.

    Some of Reed's success could be derived from teams focusing on fellow defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, but it's clear that he will win one-on-one matchups as long as he gets them. That means both defensive ends will continue to have big seasons.

    Runner-up: DE Jackson Jeffcoat

Best Play: John Harris' 44-Yard Hail Mary at Iowa State

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    Without John Harris' Hail Mary, Texas could easily be a middling 3-3 team.
    Without John Harris' Hail Mary, Texas could easily be a middling 3-3 team.David Purdy/Getty Images

    It seems odd to say, but senior flex tight end John Harris has been Texas' go-to guy for big plays. One of those plays was a game-changing Hail Mary at Iowa State.

    Texas was staring down a 13-10 halftime deficit at Iowa State and looked as average as average gets through. With four seconds left and out of field-goal range, quarterback Case McCoy was forced to throw a jump ball to the end zone. The 6'3" Harris went up and snatched it, despite being surrounded by three Cyclone defenders.

    The Longhorns would go on to win the game by a score of 31-30, so the argument could be made that they are 3-3 without Harris' effort on the prayer. On the season, he is averaging 28.2 yards per catch.

    Runner-up: Daje Johnson's 85-yard punt return vs. Oklahoma

Best Coach: Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson

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    Robinson's job against Oklahoma gives Texas legitimate hope for the second half of the season.
    Robinson's job against Oklahoma gives Texas legitimate hope for the second half of the season.Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    Tough call here, as all three major coaches have contributed to Texas' 4-2 start in both good and bad ways. But we have to pick someone, so it may as well be new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.

    This is as much for what Robinson has brought to the table as it is for what he took off it. The Longhorn defense was miserable under Manny Diaz, with the last straw coming after it gave up 550 rushing yards to BYU.

    After that, Robinson was promoted from his position as a football analyst. He started slow with a loss to Ole Miss and a near-disaster against Iowa State, but redeemed himself in the upset win over the Oklahoma Sooners.

    Robinson's defense completely bottled up Texas' bitter rivals, stifling the Sooners offense to season-lows in total yardage and points while forcing two turnovers. He had his guys playing solid assignment football, and they even finished some open-field tackles. Strange how much that helps, isn't it?

    Continue to take a wait-and-see approach with Robinson until he strings together a couple games like this. For now, his contribution to the team's biggest win since 2009 will have to work.

    Runner-up: Running backs coach Larry Porter

Most Improved Player: DE Cedric Reed

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    Cedric Reed has gone from a backup to a star in the span of one season.
    Cedric Reed has gone from a backup to a star in the span of one season.Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Cedric Reed's transition from a second-string platoon player to a bona fide star has given Texas one of the most fearsome pass rushes in the conference.

    We've already been over Reed's impact from the strong-side end position, so here's a look at just how much better he has been this season. For example, he leads the team with 42 tackles after having 46 career tackles through his first two seasons. His 6.5 tackles for loss is also only 1.5 shy of his previous total, and he has already more than doubled his career sack total.

    The most telling statistic is as follows. Reed has racked up double-digit tackles twice this season, including a career-high 14 against BYU. His previous best was seven, a number he has eclipsed three times already this season.

    He has gone from an unknown to an All-Big 12 candidate in less than a season.

    Runner-up: S Adrian Phillips

Rookie of the Year: TE Geoff Swaim

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    Geoff Swaim (82) has done a nice job as Texas' primary blocking tight end.
    Geoff Swaim (82) has done a nice job as Texas' primary blocking tight end.Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    With 19 returning starters, there has not been much available playing time for the newcomers. Geoff Swaim has seen the most playing time and has actually made a significant impact as a blocker.

    Swaim has only two catches for 12 yards on the season, but has done a nice job as an edge blocker in the running game. When Texas has mashed, especially Oklahoma, Swaim has been using his 250-pound frame to give the running backs some room to run.

    The big tight end's success is not only a tribute to his effort in a not-so-glorious role, but also an indictment of the team's pass-catching tight ends. The Longhorns continue to get nothing in the way of statistical production from that position.

    Runner-up: QB/RB Jalen Overstreet

Surprise Star: QB Case McCoy

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    Thrust into a starter's role, Case McCoy has held his own under center.
    Thrust into a starter's role, Case McCoy has held his own under center.Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    This designation also belongs to Cedric Reed. But for the sake of variety, it goes to backup quarterback Case McCoy.

    McCoy's role on this team remains as maddening as ever. He has zero arm strength, is devoid of unique athleticism and missed most of the offseason to go on a mission trip.

    However, McCoy has been thrust into a feature role due to the uncertainty surrounding David Ash's future. He is 2-1 as Texas' starting quarterback this season, having turned in an inspired performance in the upset win over the Sooners with two impressive touchdown passes.

    If and when Ash returns, he will be the team's starting quarterback. Until then, the scrappy McCoy will continue to surprise us as the team's signal-caller.

    Runner-up: WR Marcus Johnson