Football

The best individual football seasons I’ve seen with Inside Texas

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Just about five years ago, I received a phone call from Clendon Ross. It was him offering me a full-time role with Inside Texas.

A few months later, I was thrown into the fire. My first season covering Longhorn football was 2016. From the Notre Dame high to the Kansas low, I was there for every moment. All of Tom Herman’s tenure, too. Maryland… Maryland again, you get the picture.

Plenty of Longhorns have come and gone. Expectations were met maybe once, perhaps twice, but no more. Turnover has been the name of the game, not stability, when it comes to Texas Football.

But Texas Football has been a constant in my life over these past five years. I’ve seen just about everything and heard some things too. Since it’s been half a decade, here are the best football seasons by an offensive, defensive, and special teams player I’ve seen working for Inside Texas.

D’Onta Foreman

There were glimpses of Foreman’s ability in 2015, but the style of the offense around Jerrod Heard and the presence of Johnathan Gray severely cut into Foreman’s workload. Despite only 94 carries in 10 games, he averaged 7.1 yards per carry and became a force by the middle of the year before injury cost him the final two games.

In 2016, he became the workhorse. The carries were all his. Only once during the course of the 2016 season did he not have more than 20 carries. He rushed for over 120 yards in every single game, including a two-game stretch versus Baylor and Texas Tech where he rushed for 591 yards on 55 carries with five touchdowns.

D’Onta Foreman. (Will Gallagher/IT)

The 2016 season will be remembered for futility as it served as Strong’s final year in Austin, but Foreman’s efforts should be remembered fondly as well. He became the third Longhorn to win the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back, joining Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.

Foreman rushed for 2028 yards, becoming the second Longhorn ever along with Williams to rush for over 2000 yards in a season. His 341 yards against the Red Raiders in 2016 were nine short of Williams’ single game record.

Foreman carried the team in 2016. He was admirable in doing so and delivered one of the most prolific seasons by a running back in Texas history in the process.

DeShon Elliott

Elliott’s 2017 season was a prime example of a player excelling in a role made for him. It eventually led to his nickname.

In Todd Orlando’s offense, Elliott thrived as a boundary safety and as a “joker” within the framework of the 3-2-6 defense. The “joker” position asked him to be part linebacker, part safety, and to play all over the field. The Joker, DeShon Elliott, succeeded in both roles.

Elliott joined a long list of UT defenders to have six interceptions in a season, two shy of the record set by Earl Thomas in 2008. In games at USC and at Iowa State, Elliott picked off four passes and returned one for a touchdown against the Trojans.

He added another pick-six on one of the opening plays of the game at Baylor, setting the tone for a 38-7 win. Elliott, along with Poona Ford in the trenches and Malik Jefferson at the second level, defined Tom Herman’s first season with a defense that often was asked to compensate for bumbling offenses.

Elliott was named one of three finalists for the Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive back. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick took home the high honor, but Elliott capped off one of the best years in recent memory by a Longhorn defensive back with unanimous All-American honors.

Michael Dickson

How can any list not include “the punter”?

Dickson’s efforts in the Texas Bowl were the proverbial cherry on top of a Ray Guy Award-winning and unanimous All-American season. The Texas defense was strong in 2017, and it had a twelfth member helping it.

On 84 punts, Dickson averaged 47.4 yards per kick. Exactly half of his punts were downed inside the 20. Thirty-six were 50+ yards. Zero were blocked.

Michael Dickson, Texas Bowl MVP (Will Gallagher/IT)

Dickson influenced football games more so than any punter in Texas history. While Russel Erxleben may have Dickson beat as an all-around specialist, on pure punting Dickson likely takes the cake.

How good was the punter? He declared for the NFL Draft early, he was taken in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks, and he was named first-team All-Pro during his rookie season.

An unforgettable season from an unforgettable punter. Somewhat indicative of the era, but a delight to observe game over game.