Monday, October 7, 2013
Injuries keep piling up for Longhorns
By Max Olson
AUSTIN, Texas -- In a no-excuses kind of season for Texas football, one fairly legitimate one is starting to emerge.
These Longhorns are, quite frankly, banged up. David Ash is certainly not the only injured player whose absence has ailed Texas in its 3-2 start to the season.
The quarterback's lingering concussion symptoms will keep him sidelined against Oklahoma, and if he returns to the lineup for the team's next game at TCU on Oct. 26, he will have missed more than full month of starts. But he's just one name on a long list of Longhorns who have dealt with injuries since fall camp began.
Quarterback David Ash is one of several Texas players who have missed considerable time to injury.
"Still got a lot of injuries we have to overcome," Texas coach Mack Brown said last month, as the team entered Big 12 play. "Seem to be mounting on us. Doesn't matter. Part of the game."
That long list includes top linebacker Jordan Hicks, whose season is over after he suffered a ruptured Achilles against Kansas State last month. Texas lost another defender for the season last Thursday at Iowa State, when cornerback Sheroid Evans' potential breakout season was cut short by a torn ACL.
Then there are two of the most important cogs in the Texas offense: Receiver Mike Davis and receiver/running back Daje Johnson. Both gave it a go at ISU despite ankle injuries. The one Johnson suffered had kept him sidelined for nearly three full games.
Let's run down the list of players who've dealt with injuries since August, a list that may well be missing a name or two:
That doesn't include players with lingering injuries coming into the season. Former starting linebacker Demarco Cobbs and freshmen Deoundrei Davis and Erik Huhn continue to recover from knee injuries suffered a year ago, for example.
The list likely grows much longer, too, once you include players, such as running back Malcolm Brown, who are banged up but continue to play. Many of the aforementioned players have not missed games despite their ailments. But this does give a better indication of just how many Longhorns have recovered from injuries in the past two months or are still dealing with them.
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To Texas' credit, its coaching staff and trainers have been transparent throughout these struggles. The school typically releases an injury report on the evening before game days and before kickoff. Many college coaches stubbornly treat this kind of information as classified, but Brown doesn't avoid questions about who's injured or how long a player will be sidelined.
What he can't answer is why this keeps happening to Texas. This offseason, he tried to dig up some possible explanations and solutions. But Texas doesn't practice any differently than its peers. There's nothing controversial about how the Longhorns train and lift. Often times, it's simply a matter of bad luck.
"We had a little bit of an injury bug early in the season," Walters said last week. "Hopefully that doesn't continue. I really think it gives some young guys an opportunity to step up and earn some trust from the coaches."
The burden has fallen primarily on second-year players. Sophomore Kennedy Estelle has filled in for Cochran at right tackle. Three members of his class are trying to fill the void left by Hicks at linebacker. Sanders and Johnson have stepped up at receiver, and Evans going down could mean more even work for sophomore starting corner Duke Thomas.
Brown talked up the amount of quality depth Texas has in the preseason. Now that talk is being put to the test, and Texas won't stand a chance against Oklahoma unless several of the fill-ins make major contributions.
While Brown has acknowledged the "perfect storm" of adversity that's shaken up his depth chart, he's not wasting any time griping about it. He knows that one thing hasn't changed: This is still a no-excuses season for the Longhorns, no matter who's on the mend.