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Texas Longhorns: Player awards for the 2012 season

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Texas Longhorns: 2012 Player Awards

Texas Longhorns: 2012 Player Awards
Brett Davis: USA Today Sports Images

The Texas Longhorns may not have had the season they had hoped, but looking back, it's the season that fans should have expected.

The Longhorns boast a team full of talent, but overall, they are a very young squad with lots of room to improve over the spring, and fans should expect a stronger team next season.

Finishing the regular season with an 8-4 record, good for No. 3 in the conference and No. 23 in college football's Top 25 BCS rankings, the Longhorns are headed to the Alamo Bowl to face the No. 13 Oregon State Beavers to end the season.

Though this year has had more than its share of disappointments, including a humiliating loss to the Oklahoma Sooners at the Red River Rivalry game in Dallas in October and a Thanksgiving Day loss to the TCU Horned Frogs, if fans will step back for a moment, they will see that there were many bright spots as well.

The Longhorns looked great on the road against an Ole Miss Rebels team that was much improved from last season and had some good games in the SEC. It was that game that led many to believe that quarterback David Ash could be the guy to lead this team over the next couple of seasons.

Their best wins of the year came on the road against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and even more impressively, in Stillwater against the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Again, though this season had its share of highs and lows, there are several players that stood out for the Longhorns that deserve a lot of credit for their performances this year.

The following is the Rant Sports list of player awards for the 2012 Texas Longhorns football season.

(Use the arrows or click "NEXT" above to proceed to the next slide.)

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Special Teams Player of the Year: Alex King

Photo courtesy of The Daily Texan

Overlooked throughout much of the season was the play of Duke Blue Devils transfer, senior punter Alex King.

King played very well for the Longhorns in his final season of eligibility, averaging over 45 yards per punt with nine punts over 50 yards. This average places him second in the Big 12 conference, and would be eighth in the nation, but he did not have enough attempts to qualify. Additionally, King pinned opponents inside their 20 yard-line 40% of the time.

While punters don't often get much credit, especially considering how important they are in the game of field position, King did exactly what was needed of him this season and more.

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Most Improved: David Ash

Time Heltman: USA Today Sports Images

Sophomore quarterback David Ash showed a tremendous amount of improvement from last season. This year, he threw for 2,458 yards while completing 68% of his passes. He threw for 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, which is a drastic improvement over his four touchdowns and eight interceptions from last season.

While Ash's season was not perfect--he had a couple of terrible games--he showed a lot of promise this year, and if he is able to improve even more over the spring, he could prove to be a great quarterback for the Longhorns next season.

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Freshman of the Year: Johnathan Gray

Denny Medley: USA Today Sports Images

Johnathan Gray came to Austin carrying sky-high expectations on his back, and he didn't let the fans down. The dynamic freshman stood out among a solid stable of backs, earning a starting spot later in the season. Gray had 142 carries for 683 yards this year, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He added three touchdowns.

Gray also hauled in nine passes for over 100 yards, including an explosive 34-yard reception.

If Gray can stay healthy, he could end up as one of the best backs to wear burnt orange, and that's saying a lot for a school that has put out some amazing running backs in its storied history.

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Defensive Player of the Year: Alex Okafor

Brett Davis: USA Today Sports Images

While the Texas defense may not have lived up to their pre-season hype, senior defensive end Alex Okafor has been a bright spot on the underperforming unit.

With more than 60 tackles this year, he is one of just two players in the Big 12 to rack up at least eight sacks and three forced fumbles this season.

Okafor will be difficult, if not impossible to replace next season. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him playing on Sundays, but he will be greatly missed in Austin.

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Offensive Player of the Year: Mike Davis

Mark D. Smith: USA Today Sports Images

This season was the break-out year we've all been waiting for from wide receiver Mike Davis. The junior, who led the team in receptions, has racked up over 900 yards receiving this year. He is averaging 17.5 yards per play, which places him at 11th in the country, and he has made some incredible catches this season with the game on the line. His longest of the year was a 75-yard catch that resulted in one of his seven touchdowns. Additionally, he had four games in which he amassed over 110 yards.

Davis certainly has the tools to be one of the best receivers in the country, and if he stays for his senior season and continues to make big plays, the rest of the country will be forced to take notice.