Texas Football: 7 Players the Longhorns Will Miss the Most
The Texas Longhorns put in a 7-5 year following an offseason that was marred by changes and injected with fresh blood in a season that saw heavy reliance on young players.
Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, David Ash, Josh Cochran, Quandre Diggs and Jaxon Shipley all seemed to have bought into Mack Brown's rebuilding plan as true freshmen, though there were plenty of upperclassmen and graduating seniors who did more than chip in their fair share.
Several players have already left the Texas program via transfer or medical hardships. Others have simply graduated.
The Longhorns will turn over a new leaf next season, but without the presence of a handful of solid veterans.
Here are seven players that Texas will miss the most in 2012.
After missing two years with leg and foot injuries, Blaine Irby made a miraculous comeback after many believed he would never play football again.
The senior tight end has decided against applying for a medical hardship, a process that could have gotten him an extra season at Texas.
Irby recorded three touchdowns and 127 yards on 10 receptions on the season, and though he was far from standout, he should be applauded for his loyalty, determination and courage to battle back from injury.
Cody Johnson's skill set was invaluable in a Texas offense that centered around its ground game.
The 250-pound back was forced into a limited role with the emergence of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. After being listed as a running back for the first three years of his career, the move to fullback aligned Johnson more towards his build.
As a short-yardage back and lead blocker, the Longhorns running game experienced great success with Johnson as an integral component.
Is there another player with the attitude and ferocity on the roster? There definitely is no other back who can move the pile like Johnson, but success will have to come in numbers next season.
Justin Tucker forever will be remembered for delivering the final blow to Texas A&M in Texas' 27-25 win in the final running of the Lonestar Showdown, a 118-year rivalry between the Aggies and Longhorns.
A 40-yard field goal as time expired demonstrates all you need to know about Tucker. He was clutch.
The punting and kicking games were inconsistent, but Tucker delivered elsewhere.
Huge question marks at the position next season for the Longhorns, as freshman Will Russ and incoming freshman Nick Jordan are unproven assets right now.
For the better part of two seasons, the Longhorns were waiting for Kheeston Randall to turn on the switch and raise his game.
The senior defensive tackle may not have escalated to the Roy Miller or Lamar Houston levels, but Randall recorded a campaign that has not been entirely visible on the stat sheet.
Nevertheless, Randall's consistent havoc in the trenches paved the way for the young tackles on the roster to experience a smattering of success.
The most concerning issue with Randall's departure is that it leaves the defensive tackle position without a solid No. 1 option behind him.
The other senior linebacker, Keenan Robinson, was the second half of the partnership with Emmanuel Acho.
Though Robinson had trouble with consistency and a thumb injury over the course of the season, he turned on the back-burners for the final stretch of the year.
On the season, Robinson collected 96 tackles, eight for loss, during a year where the Longhorns needed the production.
Between Robinson and Acho, the two linebackers will leave the position in the hands of a bevy of talented, but vastly inexperienced youngsters.
By the same token, the duo will not be missed for any sort of superstardom, rather simply for leadership and a lunch-pail attitude.
Emmanuel Acho for many was an anchor for the Texas defense, patrolling the field with a tenacity and an energy one would look for in a linebacker.
Although he was never the flashiest defensive player on the field, his no nonsense attitude allowed Acho to lead the Longhorns in tackles this season with 122. His 18 tackles for loss is good for a first-place tie with Jackson Jeffcoat.
Much like his older brother, Acho has a professional presence and attitude, resulting in a work ethic that has trickled onto his teammates.
More than anything, Acho provided leadership during a season of uncertainty. On a defense with no flat-out stars coming into the year, Acho put in a heck of a senior campaign.
What else is there to say about Fozzy Whittaker?
The quick-footed tailback has had an up and down career with the Longhorns, but Whittaker turned in an excellent senior season despite missing the final three contests after leaving the Missouri game with ACL and MCL injuries.
He had become a Wildcat formation specialist as Texas experienced huge success with Whittaker running things.
Whittaker was a model teammate and garnered praise and respect from all corners of the Longhorns program.
Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron may end up having more productive careers at Texas, but they both have Whittaker to thank for some much needed guidance during their freshman seasons.