When Colt McCoy endured his shoulder injury against Alabama on the fifth offensive snap in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game, the Texas Longhorns had to play on. It was only after that 37-21 loss that Texas could look back and merely imagine what could have been.
Fast-forward to 2013, where Texas has had to battle the injury bug on several fronts, which many believe has caused numerous detours to a season that had "special" written all over it.
Junior linebacker Jordan Hicks was the first hit, suffering an Achilles injury against Kansas State. He was ruled out for the season.
Junior quarterback David Ash has also been out since the Kansas State game as lingering affects from a concussion have kept him away from live action. Per ESPN.com's Max Olson, Ash will seek medical redshirt and will not return this season.
Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley picked up a season-ending knee injury against West Virginia.
Sophomore running back Johnathan Gray suffered a ruptured Achilles against West Virginia, and he has been ruled out for the rest of the year.
Junior right tackle Josh Cochran has missed seven games this season with a shoulder injury.
Sophomore running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson missed the Ole Miss and Kansas State games with an ankle knock.
During Texas' Thanksgiving showdown with Texas Tech, junior linebacker Steve Edmond suffered a lacerated liver, forcing him to miss the rest of the year.
In just a few weeks, once again, Texas will be able to look back and imagine what could have been.
What's been missing?
Not only are the above players starters, but virtually all of them are critical pieces are their respective positions.
Ash arguably makes the Texas offense more complete. His running threat alone has been sorely missed at the quarterback position, but Ash's deep ball, which at the least is more consistent than Case McCoy's, was supposed to be one of Texas' best weapons.
|Texas Longhorns Running Backs|
|Johnathan Gray (So.)||159||780||4.9||4|
|Malcolm Brown (Jr.)||163||671||3.9||9|
|Joe Bergeron (Jr.)||62||359||5.5||4|
|Daje Johnson (So.)||22||126||5.5||1|
Gray is the team's leading rusher with 780 yards, and although he will likely lose that title to Malcolm Brown, Gray has been the team's most complete back. Fortunately, Texas has the depth to handle Gray's absence, but there is little question that the sophomore's steady production is and has been the cornerstone of the Texas running game.
Cochran has been a missing piece for some time, but the emergence of Kennedy Estelle at right tackle has eased the pressure.
Johnson has missed a total of three games this season, two to injury. But in his absence, the Longhorns are without their most explosive offensive weapon.
Defensively, Texas has been a little more fortunate. Even though the missing pieces pale in comparison to the offensive side of the ball, the absences of Hicks, Whaley and Edmond are critical components to a Texas defense that has completed a full 180 since the beginning of the season.
Hicks and Edmond's injuries are blows to a linebacker corps that was already dealing with some uncertainty before the season began, and now Texas will have to dive deep into its roster to field some inexperience once again.
At the end of the day, Texas has weathered the storm about as well as one could hope given the circumstances of the 1-2 start and the expectations moving forward. But just as a top-tier program should, the Longhorns have a strong cupboard of talent.
The bottom line
Injuries are a part of the game, and to dwell on what could have been is no response to adversity.
Credit to the Texas staff and players for persevering despite the slow start, negative media attention and—above all else—injuries.
When the injury bug bites hard, it is up to the healthy players to react. And when guys like Jackson Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed, Case McCoy, and Malcom Brown, among others, start to step up, it surely lessens the sting.