Our non-conference schedule looked easy enough to start our way on a title chase, but any non-delusional Longhorn fan would admit that the young Texas secondary would have trouble with any high-powered offense.
The losses of three key defensive backs, Aaron Ross (Jim Thorpe Award winner for the nation's top defensive back), Tarell Brown, and Michael Griffin to the to the NFL left our secondary very young and experienced.
A good secondary is vital in order to reach the National Championship, and the only starter that remained in a Longhorn uniform was Strong Safety Marcus Griffin.
Griffin had always been an aggressive defender capable of getting lots of tackles, but often being beat on play-action fakes and trick plays. This season, the safety was able to play more consistently because he knew he had to be the team's anchor.
Rounding out the defensive backfield, cornerbacks Ryan Palmer and senior Brandon Foster stepped into their roles and played very well. Foster got a few important accolades as he was named Big XII Defensive Player of the Week two weeks in a row early in the season.
Even after the losses in the secondary, the Longhorns suffered a large amount of injuries to important parts of their team.
Wide receiver Limas Sweed, who returned to school most likely to boost his stock for the 2008 NFL Draft, sustained a significant wrist injury that forced him to miss the first game at home against Arkansas State. He aggravated the injury in the first half against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, and was forced out of the game. Afterwards, Sweed had season-ending surgery and quarterback Colt McCoy's favorite target was no longer an option.
Making matters worse, speedy wide receiver and holder Jordan Shipley was hampered by multiple injuries. As a result, senior wideout Nate Jones became a major part of the offense, along with standout returner Quan Cosby and tight end JerMichael Finley. All became safety valves for McCoy and were very important in the team's nine victories.
Meanwhile, there were many key injuries on the already thin defense. Senior defensive end Brian Orakpo, who was responsible for speed rushes and trying to get sacks on third downs, went down early in the season and missed a few contests. Defensive tackle Thomas Marshall was absent for a few games as well.
But neither of these injuries came close to the problems on the offensive line.
Right tackle Adam Ulatoski had an arm injury that forced him out of a few games and forced the Longhorn coaching staff to move players around to positions that they were not comfortable with, or used to, on the offensive line.
The worst of the O-line's injuries were to seniors Dallas Griffin and Tony Hills. Griffin, who played center and was hurt late in the season in Stillwater, Oklahoma against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, was one of McCoy's biggest protectors along with Hills (left tackle) who got hurt on senior day, in the team's final game at home against Texas Tech in Darryl K. Royal Stadium.
The only silver lining to these injuries are that they allowed future center Buck Burnette to get some work in with the first team offense in an important gameday situation.
Of course the season ended on a sour note with the 38-30 loss in College Station against Texas A&M, but the 9-3 effort could have been much worse.
Texas showed that it could be a second-half team capable of fighting back from deficits, as proved by wins after trailing to Nebraska 17-3 at halftime, Oklahoma State by 21 at the start of the 4th quarter, and Texas Christian by 10 at the half.
Despite the embarrassing loss to Kansas State on our home field, we exceeded expectations in our loss in Dallas to Oklahoma, and beat each team we should have.
In my opinion, this was a season we needed to have. When a 9-3 year is a failure, it is obvious how well our program has grown to this point, and that only excites me for the future.