The Texas Longhorns gritted out a 47-40 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers on Sunday evening in Morgantown, West Virginia on Saturday, but they didn’t return to Austin without some collateral damage. In the first half, star running back Johnathan Gray went down with an achilles injury on a normal, routine carry and senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley suffered a knee injury on a goal-line stand.
Gray was able to walk off under his own power, but Whaley was removed from the field on cart and the worst was assumed. Those worst fears have come true as Texas athletics has announced that both Gray and Whaley suffered severe injuries and will miss the remainder of the 2013 season.
In essence, in losing both Gray and Whaley, Texas is losing its two leaders-by-example and the impact this has on the team will be immeasurable. Something similar happens almost every season on the Forty Acres and Mack Brown’s squads are not unfamiliar with adversity, but this particular situation will require some guys who have faded into the background in 2013 to rise to the occasion in substantially more significant roles.
Running backs Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown and now certain to split carries evenly, and the lead back job is again up in the air. Brown will more than likely get the lionshare of the carries in the middle of the field, but Bergeron could poach some goal-line carries here and there to even the load. Don’t be surprised to see both sophomore Daje Johnson and rarely-used hybrid back Jalen Overstreet get some occasional looks as well in traditional running sets. The loss of Johnathan Gray simply cannot be offset given what he brings to the fold, but Texas will do their best to offset his lost production through using several backs which together mirror his wide and dynamic skill set.
The loss of Chris Whaley is devastating to a Texas defensive line who had come to life in recent weeks and was playing some of its best football as a unit. With Whaley out, senior Desmond Jackson will be asked to play much heavier minutes, and given his strong performance against West Virginia on Saturday, should be able to carry the load. It’s possible that Hasaan Ridgeway could see some additional snaps as well, potentially moving over from nose tackle to play on occasion at tackle, but Jackson will be the primary replacement for Jackson.
Texas dives head-first into the toughest part of its schedule in the coming weeks, and how these guys rise to replace some of the team’s most valued pieces could be the biggest storyline of the Longhorns’ Big 12 title run.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer, Business Analyst and College Content Coordinator for Rant Sports.