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Texas Football: 2018 Team Awards

Texas Football: 2018 Team Awards

Texas Football: 2018 Team Awards

A date with the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl still looms, but the Texas Longhorns finished year two of the Tom Herman era in solid shape.

The Longhorns made an appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game. They also brought home a win in the Red River Rivalry. The most encouraging sign: UT played competitive football all season and avoided the embarrassing losses that have plagued the team for the better part of a decade. A year like that probably makes Texas the preseason favorite in the Big 12 in 2019.

Here are some of the key performances from the 2018 season.

Offensive MVP: Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR

Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger has a great argument for this distinction. Humphrey, however, proved time and again to be one of the most dominant forces in all of the Big 12. His combination of size and speed made Humphrey an extraordinarily difficult matchup – a major factor enabling him to catch 79 passes for more than 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns this year.

Defensive MVP: Charles Omenihu, DL

The Big 12 coaches named Omenihu the conference’s defensive lineman of the year. He proved himself to be the league’s best pass rusher with a conference-high 9.5 sacks in 2018. Omenihu also held strong all season at the point of attack in rush defense.

Best Freshman: Caden Sterns, DB

Even though Sterns’ play trailed off late in the season, the freshman safety made his mark early in the year. He started in the secondary from game one versus Maryland. By the end of the year, he had picked off four passes. That was good for first on his team and second in the conference behind Texas Tech’s Adrian Frye.

Best Play of the Season: Dicker the Kicker Drills a Winner

It doesn’t get much more dramatic than a rookie kicker putting the winning field goal through the uprights in the waning seconds of a classic rivalry game. Freshman Cameron Dicker’s 40-yard strike in the Longhorns’ first meeting with the Oklahoma Sooners ensured he will never pay for a drink in Austin again. (Once he is of legal age, of course.)

Best Performance by a Player: Ehlinger Bludgeons Oklahoma

Texas’ starting quarterback didn’t put the minds of many UT fans at ease when he melted down in the squad’s season opener versus Maryland. Sam Ehlinger more than made up for it on Oct. 6 in the Cotton Bowl. He completed 24-of-35 pass attempts versus the Sooners for 314 yards and two touchdowns, adding three TDs and 72 yards on the ground.

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Best Game (Team Performance): Serving up Revenge to USC

The Longhorns and Trojans played a thriller in Los Angeles in 2017, a game that USC snatched away from UT in overtime. Their 2018 matchup lacked that level of drama. Texas whooped the visitors from the West Coast, 37-14, in a game that wasn’t even as close as the final margin would suggest.

Defining Moment: West Virginia Goes for Two

WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen’s gutsy call to go for a game-winning, two-point conversion late in the Mountaineers’ meeting with Texas summed up the season for the Longhorns. As quarterback Will Grier darted into the end zone to put his team up by a point with time running down, UT’s hopes of a truly special season floated away.

The Longhorns put together a great campaign in ‘18, but the feeling that the year could have gone even better still lingers in light of results like the WVU loss.

Biggest Surprise: Offensive Line

UT’s putrid track record with the big uglies appears to be coming to an end. The school broke a long drought in the spring when it finally saw one of its offensive lineman, Connor Williams, selected in the NFL draft. In the fall, new OL coach Herb Hand coaxed the best season out of the unit in at least a decade. That should give the program some confidence about the direction of its offense going forward.

Biggest Disappointment: Secondary

The Longhorns have talented defensive backs on the roster who can cover, run and hit - including Caden Sterns and senior cornerback Kris Boyd. So why did it feel as though the unit never really played up to its potential? Opponents lit up the defensive backs way too often for a group with this much potential.

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most: Charles Omenihu, DL

You don’t find many defensive linemen of Omenihu’s caliber in Big 12 country. The Longhorns will look to players such as Ta’Quon Graham to fill the major void created by Omenihu’s departure.

Player to Watch in 2019: Keontay Ingram, RB

Ingram fought off injuries throughout the season, limiting him to just 133 carries for the year. He proved to be UT’s most effective runner, though, as he averaged 5.14 yards per carry.

A full year in the strength program should help Ingram build up his durability and explosiveness. Don’t be surprised if he develops into one of the best running backs in the Big 12 next year.

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Defensive Line

Charles Omenihu isn’t the only major departure from the defensive front. Seniors Chris Nelson and Breckyn Hager are graduating as well. The Longhorns will miss their contributions in the locker room as much as what they did on the field.

— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.