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Chronicles of loss: How dismissals, suspensions, and injuries have decimated the Texas Longhorns

Warning -- what follows is not for the faint of heart.

Chris Covatta

No matter what Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong thought he was getting as a football team when he arrived in Austin in January to replace Mack Brown, the team that he has right now represents one of the worst-case scenarios possible.

Currently sitting at 3-5 with four games remaining, Texas is unlikely to make a bowl game for only the second time since 1997 with a team characterized by inexperience and mistakes, proof positive that the culture change and efforts of the new coaching staff haven't paid off in the bottom-line category that defines a coach's career and a coaching staff's legacy.

But to understand why Strong is frustrated and why play caller Shawn Watson stood in front of the media on Tuesday night and continued to call his offense a work in progress eight games into the season, it's important to understand the team that Strong and company are working with heading into the season's final four games and how that team came to look as it does.

What follows is probably not for the faint of heart, but here are the rules -- this is a look at all the dismissals, suspensions, and injuries that the team has suffered through since Strong arrived in January.


Junior David Ash -- The Belton product unquestionably experienced peaks and valleys in his career, from the lows of games like Kansas and TCU in 2012 to highs like his superb moments against Oklahoma State and Oregon State in the same season. Yet, after he had taken his last snap as a Longhorn, he sat at No. 10 all-time in total offense and No. 8 in passing yards, despite the fact he didn't even get two full seasons as a starter.

Had he been healthy his last two seasons, he would have waged a serious assault on the Texas record books at quarterback and would have gone down as one of the most productive passers in Longhorns history.

Senior Miles Onyegbule -- A former non-contributor at wide receiver and tight end, Onyegbule moved back to the position he played as a senior in high school due to depth issues during the spring. Other than a throw down the sidelines to Montrel Meander, he didn't show much, throwing two interceptions and fumbling once.

Still, he was the buffer between true freshman Jerrod Heard and sophomore Tyrone Swoopes if something happened to Ash and Swoopes, but was lost for the season (and, essentially, his career) when his knee was shredded during fall camp.

Fortunately that worst-case scenario hasn't come to pass.

Senior graduate transfer Max Wittek -- Even though it's not still entirely clear what exactly happened to keep the planned USC graduate transfer from completing all of his course work in time to make it to his supposed destination, he was the primary back-up plan to provide some competition to Swoopes in the event of another injury to Ash.

This one is a little bit more of a stretch because he never actually enrolled, but make no mistake, this was a done deal before he failed to graduate in May.

Summary: If Ash had merely been able to play at his 2012 level, Texas would have a near-elite quarterback likely among the top 20 in the country in passer rating.

Instead, Swoopes has been up and down and currently sits at No. 89 in passer rating after the Longhorns lost . Even if Ash had only been able to use his arm this season and not his legs as much as he had in the past, he still could have been the difference in the UCLA and Oklahoma games.

Running back/fullback

Senior Joe Bergeron -- The offensive line pieces are much more important than a guy who would have been battling for second-team or third-team snaps for an offense that doesn't want to run many plays means that Bergeron's projected impact wasn't incredibly high.

Throw in his previous issues and it was hardly a shock to see him make the wrong decisions to remain an option under Strong. But if he had managed to stick around, his ability to impact special teams last season might have been something that could have translated for a team that clearly needs special teams help.

Sophomore Jalen Overstreet -- Fit at the position was a question for Overstreet, who was recruited as a quarterback, but couldn't hang there. Moving to the defense or trying out wide receiver might have been a better path for Overstreet to playing time if he had managed to follow the rules, but his loss is ultimately pretty negligible.

Senior Chet Moss -- The local product had trouble staying in good standing in the Mack Brown regime, so his chances of lasting under Strong were virtually zero. Moss was beaten out by a younger failed linebacker in Alex De La Torre in 2012 and never made many plays on special teams, so his only real accomplishment at Texas was occupying a scholarship.

Summary: Texas lost half of the returning scholarship players from last season at the position -- as well as all-purpose back signee Kevin Shorter to injury -- but didn't lose much in terms of potential impact this season, especially since senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray have stayed healthy. Or at least what approximates healthy at this point for the latter player.

Wide receiver

Senior Jaxon Shipley -- For the second straight year, Shipley missed significant time during fall camp, this time because of a hamstring injury. Now back to full health, it was clear that he was limited during non-conference play.

Junior Kendall Sanders -- Assessing the loss of the Athens product requires a sharp distinction between what he actually provided and the significant potential he was perceived to have. Other than the long touchdown catch from David Ash on a post route against Kansas State, Sanders never proved that he could make big plays at the college level, finishing 2013 with an abysmal 9.76-yard average that ranked No. 33 in the Big 12, but his junior season was considered a chance for him to finally break out.

Junior Daje Johnson -- Suspended for the third time in his career just after the Purge, Johnson has been so unreliable during his career that counting on him to build on his best moments and become a consistently explosive weapon was an optimistic stance entering the season.

And when he finally managed to return from suspensions against Oklahoma, he suffered an injured hamstring that has kept him out since. As a result, he's only carried the ball once for five yards this season.

Redshirt freshman Montrel Meander -- Sanders' partner in (alleged) crime was supposed to provide some of the deep speed that the Longhorns hadn't demonstrated from any returning players and made the aforementioned catch from Oneygbule during the spring game. He was likely to merely provide depth in 2014, however.

Redshirt freshman Jake Oliver -- The Dallas Jesuit product missed time during the spring with an elbow injury, though he wasn't expected to contribute this fall.

Summary: Sanders was going to battle for a starting job and an optimistic view would suggest that he could have finally had a big season since his athleticism was never in question. At the least, Texas lost some depth that hasn't been severely tested by injuries other than the injured hamstring of Daje Johnson, though the loss of the junior playmaker has been much more significant since the Longhorns have struggled to produce big plays.

Tight end

Senior Greg Daniels -- A strong blocker than junior MJ McFarland, Daniels suffered a knee injury in fall camp that resulted in arthroscopic surgery. He's been back since the Kansas game, but he hasn't played much and likely isn't fully healthy. He also missed the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery during the offseason.

The offense could use another strong in-line blocker and since McFarland has provided virtually nothing in the passing game other than two short touchdown catches that Daniels could have made, his injury was perhaps a relatively small one, but not insignificant.

Offensive line

Senior offensive tackle Desmond Harrison -- Once considered a potential NFL prospect with a chance to start upon arriving, the academic issues set Harrison back and he was never able to recover last season to contribute. This year, his inability to avoid breaking the core values of head coach Charlie Strong have resulted in two suspensions already and no prospects of returning.

Projecting him to tap much of that perceived potential isn't likely, but he's essentially been removed from any chances to contribute for a variety of reasons over almost two seasons. Even modest contributions from him compared to that potential could have been crucial for an offensive line with so many other issues.

Junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle -- After performing admirably in replacing former starter Josh Cochran in 2013, Estelle was supposed to be a linchpin for a line that had to replace four starters from the opener against New Mexico State last year.

Instead, he got himself suspended after the first game of the season and subsequently dismissed. Instead of at least average tackle play at one position, Texas was stuck with a natural guard and a former non-contributor just moved back from defensive tackle.

Senior center Dominic Espinosa -- Entering the season, Espinosa had almost 80% of the career starts for a Texas offensive line that ranked tied for 89th nationally in career starts with 49.*

With BJ Finney back at Kansas State, Espinosa wasn't likely to be a first-team All-Big 12 selection, but that 80% of the career starts along the line entering the season is compounded by the fact that he was responsible for making the line calls. And his back up entering the year was a redshirt freshman who wasn't supposed to play until 2015

Sophomore offensive guard Kent Perkins -- A broken foot in the spring may have contributed to the issues with foot quickness that plagued Perkins when he was playing outside at right tackle early in the season. Wickline did tell the Statesman that he thought Perkins isn't in great shape at 330 pounds and a foot injury would certainly contribute to that. Perkins also injured his knee against Kansas State and is currently listed as day to day.

Redshirt freshman guard Rami Hammad -- Supposed to be the late addition jewel of the 2013 Texas offensive line class from the prep ranks, Hammad didn't get along with Wickline even though he had been committed to him for some time when the current Texas offensive line coach was still at Oklahoma State.

Hammad wasn't in a position to contribute after the spring, so to whatever extent he was a loss, it only affected the long-term projections for the program.

Summary: By the BYU game, Texas had lost 96% of the starts from a team that still lost four starters from the opener the previous season. That's pretty much the definition of a dumpster fire.

The fact that Joe Wickline has mostly kept it from consistently devolving into that is probably nothing short of a miracle. But how many of the false starts and holding penalties and missed pass blocks and missed run blocks don't happen if Espinosa and Estelle are healthy and playing at the same level they achieved last year?

The number would certainly seem to be significant.

Defensive line

Senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson -- After missing on players like A'Shawn Robinson and Andrew Billings in the 2013 recruiting class, depth on the inside of the line defensively wasn't great entering the season, so losing a three-year contributor there was a big loss, especially since Jackson's ability to eat up double teams was essentially irreplaceable.

Sophomore Hassan Ridgeway has flashed at times and is holding his own for the most part, but hasn't been able to replicate Jackson's skill set.


Senior Kendall Thompson -- Initially included in some places among the dismissed players, the Carthage product ultimately had to give up the game because of concussions. When he had gotten on the field for Texas, he had never shown the ability to play at a starting level in the Big 12.

Redshirt freshman Deoundrei Davis -- Seemingly not recovered from the ACL injury that he suffered in 2012, Davis looked to be in trouble during the spring when he wasn't dressed for the Orange-White game. Then he was dismissed early in the season amid some reports that he was stealing from teammates. A consensus four-star prospect and perceived spread buster coming out high school, the loss of Davis wasn't significant for this year's team with a number of older players in front of him.

Summary: The impact on the 2014 team from these two losses is minimal.


Senior safety Josh Turner -- The Oklahoma native's career was trending down when Strong arrived, so he might have lost a prospective starting job to Haines anyway. A suspension that was initially reported as a dismissal put him in the doghouse of the coaching staff entering the fall and he hasn't really recovered since he returned for the UCLA game.

Senior safety Leroy Scott -- Limited playing time in 2013 seemed rather odd since Scott seemed to make plays on special teams and at safety whenever he got the opportunity, but his spring dismissal seemed to support the decision by the previous coaching staff to keep him off the field. If he had managed to avoid trouble, he could have received the most significant playing time of his career this fall.

Redshirt freshman safety Chevoski Collins -- The expectations simply weren't there for Collins after the spring when he was passed by former walk on Dylan Haines. As a result, he was unlikely to contribute this season in any capacity other than on special teams.

Redshirt freshman safety Erik Huhn -- The last two years have been full of injury issues for the Cibolo Steele product, who had to undergo another knee surgery in the fall. At this point, ti would be a surprise if he ever plays for Texas.

Summary: There's a clear lack of depth at the position that has resulted in the ascensions of Haines and true freshman Jason Hall, but the four players on this list weren't significant losses other than for depth purposes.


No team attempting signifiant culture change can hope to completely avoid attrition, but it's clear that the dismissals at least took away a variety of players who could have contributed on special teams, reducing the available pool of players.

The big loss was Estelle because there simply isn't anyone else on the team who could replace his production, along with the key suspensions of Harrison and Johnson, all three of which had a major impact on the offense when put together.

But despite all the dismissals, it's been the injuries that have hurt Texas the most, with the losses of Ash and Espinosa the most significant by far. In fact, not having those two players has arguably cost the Longhorns a game or two this season and may end up being the difference between being bowl eligible and getting an early start on the offseason.

All told, 24 players have been dismissed, injured, or suspended since Strong took over, nearly one quarter of the team. Three of the injuries were season-ending and two of them ended careers for players with a combined 62 starts.

And, as mentioned earlier, the offensive lost lost 96% of its starts entering the season by the second game, which has led to a revolving door at the position and regular issues that have made it more things much more difficult for Swoopes. Speaking of quarterbacks, the loss of Ash cost Texas 100% of the starts at the position when he suffered his final concussion playing football.

Strong may not be happy with his coaching staff to this point, but he's had to deal with the lack of accountability from the Mack Brown era while suffering some major injuries. Throw in the other misbehaving players and there probably isn't any coaching staff in the country that could have turned this team into a winning group in that amount of time provided.

So it goes.