Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport
Getting Johnathan Gray back on the field will pay major dividends for the 2014 offense.
With five starters succumbing to season-ending injuries in 2013, the Longhorns have to get some of their best players healthy this offseason. Starting with their top offensive player.
Josh Cochran has decided to call it a career due to a chronic shoulder issue. Defensive tackle Chris Whaley has exhausted his eligibility. David Ash is expected to return this spring, but could lose his job to Tyrone Swoopes.
Even with those three starters possibly done as Longhorns, the team is still waiting on two crucial pieces to return to action in 2014. Weak-side linebacker Jordan Hicks and running back Johnathan Gray are both working on a return from season-ending Achilles injuries. And the 'Horns could really use both at full strength.
Gray's timely return is a virtual certainty. His work ethic was a constant object of praise from the previous coaching staff, and the second half of his career will greatly impact his NFL future. With the return of Gray's big-play ability, along with the return of the powerful Malcolm Brown, Strong would have the foundation for his 2014 offense.
Hicks, on the other hand, is more of a mystery. The former 5-star recruit has missed 19 of 26 games over the past two seasons, having lasted no more than four games in either season. But his production is undeniable, recording 96 tackles with nine for a loss over his last 13 games.
Getting these two healthy will pay major dividends on the 2014 season and would be an early endorsement for the new strength and conditioning program.