We’re at the midway point in the season for Texas and the Horns stand at 3-3. We’ve seen progression in spots and regression in others. From a No. 11 ranking after topping Notre Dame and UTEP, to a 3-game losing skid, this season has been one, long rollercoaster ride. But there’s one element you can’t deny; it’s Charlie Strong’s best start since he arrived on the 40 Acres.
Offensive Player of the Year: D’Onta Foreman, RB, Junior (Texas City)
All Foreman has done is cement himself in Longhorns lore in his junior year. He leads the nation with seven consecutive 100-yard performances, notching a TD in each as well. He’s 2nd in the nation in yards per game (145) and is showing no signs of slowing. He’s the workhorse Texas needed (30 carries vs ISU) when fellow backfield mate, Chris Warren III, went down with a season-ending knee injury. He’s also doing this with, many times, a loaded box along the opponents’ front 7. He’s a bigger version of former NFL RB, Michael Turner, and nobody will blame him if/when he leaves for greener pastures in the NFL.
Honorable mention: Connor Williams, OL (Coppell) and Shane Buechele, QB (Arlington Lamar)
Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Shane Buechele, QB, Frosh (Arlington Lamar)
When Strong told a reporter before the ND game,” Oh God yes,” when asked if Buechele would play as a freshman, we should’ve known. Yours truly knew Shane was a special talent of maturity, moxie, and accuracy, but I can admit I didn’t think he’d be this good, this fast. With 1,500 yards passing, 63.7 completion percentage, and 13 touchdowns in six games, Boo has been the catalyst for the ginormous offensive turnaround in Austin. By the end of the season, he’ll likely hold every freshman passing mark in Texas history. Let that sink in.
Honorable mention: Devin Duvernay, WR (Garland Sachse) and Zach Shackelford, C (Belton)
Offensive Breakout Player: Dorian Leonard, WR, Junior (Longview)
After two years of obscurity and a battle with the drops, Leonard has made the most of his opportunity in Sterlin Gilbert’s new offense and instant chemistry with QB Shane Buechele. The 6-foot-3 junior from #bEASTtexas has really come on since Big 12 play began. He’s 2nd leading receiver on campus – 10 catches, 199 yards, 2 TDs. Scoring grabs at Oklahoma State and in Dallas vs OU have given Leonard the confidence that he not only is a weapon for the Longhorns, but that he belongs.
Honorable mention: Jake Oliver, WR, Junior (Dallas Jesuit) and Jerrod Heard, WR, RS Soph (Denton Guyer)
Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Nelson, DT, Soph (Lakeland, FL)
If you would’ve polled all the CFB pundits before the season, I bet none of them would’ve had Nelson as UT’s DPOY at the midway point. His numbers are not only some of the best on the team – 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF – but his performance against Iowa State cemented this accolade (7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QBH). When he’s not hitting the ball-carrier from the nose (3i), he’s being disruptive. The defensive line was the question mark heading into this season and with Nelson, it’s one of its strengths.
Honorable mention: Breckyn Hager, LB, Soph (Austin Westlake) and Poona Ford, DL, Soph (Hilton Head, South Carolina)
Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Malcolm Roach, LB, Frosh (Madison Prep Academy – Baton Rouge, LA)
The Swamp Thing burst on the scene with a breakout game vs UTEP. His numbers don’t paint the full picture – 13 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL. He might lead the team in quarterback hurries with more snaps and his energy, along with Hager, has been a much-needed boost for the Texas defense. Roach is another example of an under-recruited player (3-star) that Strong develops into a Sunday player.
Honorable mention: Jordan Elliott, DL, Frosh (Houston Westside) and Brandon Jones, S, Frosh (Nacogdoches)
Defensive Breakout Player: Kris Boyd, CB, Soph (Gilmer)
His numbers don’t tell the whole story – 18 tackles, 3 PBUs, 1.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR. This guy didn’t even start until Week 4 at Oklahoma State. When more-heralded guys like Davante Davis and Holton Hill were getting all the publicity, Boyd was quietly making plays on special teams and patiently waiting for his shot. And when he got it, he turned himself into the best DB on campus and one of the best athletes in the Big 12. He was told to work on his technique (reading keys, eyes, footwork) after the Cal loss and he did just that. If not for one bad ball vs OU, Boyd has had an impressive 3-week run. Each snap, his confidence grows. Each pass breakup, his presence is more felt. Kris Doggy Dogg is here to stay.
Honorable mention: Anthony Wheeler, LB, Soph (Dallas Carter) and Charles Omenihu, DL, Soph (Rowlett)