Injuries are a part of football.
As true as it may be, the No. 24 Texas Longhorns (7-2, 6-0) have faced more than a few unlucky breaks on that front, losing multiple players to season-ending injuries.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks' Achilles tear has kept him out since late September. Quarterback David Ash has suffered from lingering issues stemming from a concussion sustained against BYU. While he has never been ruled out for the season, he has only recently begun practicing again on a very limited basis. Plus, head coach Mack Brown would be crazy to throw Ash back into the starter's role in place of the guy who has the team on a six-game winning streak.
Running back Johnathan Gray (Achilles) and defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee) are the latest two to join the "Out for the rest of the season" crew after sustaining injuries in Texas' 47-40 win over West Virginia.
The Longhorns were able to overcome the first two hits, but what do the Gray and Whaley losses mean for the rest of the season?
Depth was there, now it's not
For a top-tier program like Texas, it pays to have solid depth. And fortunately for the Longhorns, their injuries have come at positions where depth was less of a concern.
Texas will still be able to tote out a very talented tailback in Malcolm Brown, who has rushed for 379 yards and seven touchdowns in the last four games after posting just 63 yards and one touchdown in his first five. Brown is still a really good ball-carrier.
Joe Bergeron appeared to have gotten out of the doghouse, and he will need to do everything he can to hold onto the football. Though Bergeron had just 16 yards on four carries with a touchdown, he ran with good pace and power, which will mesh with the game-plan perfectly down the stretch.
Keep in mind that Bergeron had 16 rushing touchdowns last season. Do not forget about Jalen Overstreet, either.
At defensive tackle, Texas may have exhausted itself on its depth.
Sophomore Malcom Brown is a mainstay, but without the senior Whaley, enter Desmond Jackson. All he did against West Virginia was rack up eight tackles, three tackles for loss, a force fumble and two sacks.
Texas will still get its production in the interior, and there are some who may argue Jackson ahead of Whaley.
The main concern, however, lies beyond the starting two.
Hassan Ridgeway and Bryce Cottrell have seen very limited snaps this season, the former more than the latter. Definitely keep an eye inside when Brown or Jackson need breathers.
What will be missed
Texas loses two of its biggest leaders on either side of the football in Gray and Whaley, but it will miss their ability to make plays.
|Gray and Whaley's 2013 Numbers|
|Gray||174||841||4||93.5 total ypg|
|Tackles||Tackles for Loss-Yards||Sacks||Other|
|Whaley||25||5-17||2||2 FR, 1 INT|
Gray is Texas' complete back and has rushed for 780 yards on 159 carries. The sophomore was averaging almost 19 carries per game going into the West Virginia game.
Whaley's two defensive touchdowns came at critical junctures in either game.
Against the Sooners in a 3-3 ballgame late in the first quarter, Whaley's 31-yard interception return made it 10-3 and served as a huge firelighter that pushed Texas to a big win over Oklahoma.
Two weeks later against Kansas, Whaley's 40-yard fumble return turned a one-score game midway through the third quarter into a two-score affair. Texas never looked back.
The Bottom Line
The Longhorns will heavily miss these two outstanding players. But injuries are a part of football, and Texas will move forward.
Fortunately for them, they are well-stocked with talented bodies.