- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
HornsNation wraps up its rankings of Texas' players for the season:
1. Alex Okafor: The soft-spoken defensive end raised his voice and his game this season. Okafor nearly won the West Virginia game for Texas, and he was the most dominant player on the field in the bowl game. He carried the respect of his teammates because of his talent and work ethic.
2. Kenny Vaccaro: The linebackers and other safety spot were a mess this season, forcing Vaccaro not only to carry younger players but to play in different spots. He became a stop-gap player in the back seven and was able to shut down just about every receiver he manned up against.
3. David Ash: The quarterback certainly had his issues and still needs to grow into the role of a leader. But he had nine wins as the starter and finished the year ranked in the top 25 in pass-efficiency rating. Ash also showed tremendous growth in the bowl game. Before that game, Ash had the tendency resign himself to a bad day if he started poorly. But against Oregon State, Ash rebounded from a slow start to finish the game with two crucial fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
4. Johnathan Gray: The freshman showed how much he had matured and meant to this team on a 15-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. With Ash scrambling, Gray did exactly what he was supposed to do and continued on his wheel route into the open area. Ash found him, and the touchdown allowed Texas to seize the momentum built by the defense. Gray finished with more rushing yards than any other freshman in the Big 12.
5. Mike Davis: The junior receiver was quiet during the bowl game, but it was his ability to turn it on in big spots that helped turn the team around. Only Marqise Lee of USC had a better month of November than Davis. He continually used his speed to break open past secondaries and proved to have reliable hands, as well as blocking ability.
6. Peter Jinkens: The linebacker was little used early, but his contributions late were invaluable. He proved to be one of the few Texas linebackers able to go sideline to sideline and effectively shed blockers. In addition, his enthusiasm proved to be infectious on a defense that desperately needed a spark.
7. Alex King: It might be slightly too high to put a punter, but he was the most consistent and reliable player on the Texas team from start to finish. The Duke transfer allowed Texas to be No. 3 in the FBS in net punting. Those hidden yards gained were invaluable for a team that, at times, had trouble picking up yards on offense or stopping people on defense.
8. Quandre Diggs: The sophomore was a reliable lock-down cornerback who forced everything to the other side of the field. In addition he was one of the few solid tacklers on the Texas defense. His versatility and awareness also allowed Texas to use him as a punt returner.
9. Marquise Goodwin: When the ball was in his hands there was not a more explosive player on the field. The wide receiver’s speed allowed Texas to blow out Ole Miss. And while former co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin neglected to get Goodwin the ball as frequently as he should have the senior still stayed in and was Texas’ best downfield blocker. Then, to end the season, new play-caller Major Applewhite once again made it a point to get Goodwin the ball, and it paid off with a 64-yard touchdown run and a 36-yard touchdown reception.
10. Joe Bergeron: The running back was not the most explosive player on the field, but his reliability around the goal line helped Texas become a significantly better team in the red zone. In 2011, Texas was 107th in FBS. In 2012 the Longhorns were ranked 36th. Bergeron’s 16 rushing touchdowns were a large reason why.