The Longhorns are halfway through their 12-game schedule and several players have caught our attention. Here are The Daily Texan’s midseason awards.
MVP: Fozzy Whittaker
Whittaker has been the surprise of the season and the Longhorns’ most improved player. The senior running back is finally healthy and it shows on the field. Whittaker has done just about everything for Texas this year: run, block, catch, pass, return kicks and, most importantly, score. He leads the team with seven touchdowns (one receiving, four rushing and two on kick returns). Whittaker is second with 43 carries for 220 yards and third with 12 catches (85 yards). In three games since being named kick returner, Whittaker has eight returns for 372 yards (46.5 average) and two touchdowns — both covering 100 yards. He’s scored 42 points, second only to placekicker Justin Tucker’s 46. Whittaker started hot against Rice, when he was the first Longhorn to score a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same quarter since 2006, and hasn’t tailed off. His 677 all-purpose yards are tops on the team. He’s been successful out of the “Wild” formation, scoring three times off the direct snap. Whittaker’s given Texas everything he has and the Longhorns are praying he stays healthy.
Offensive MVP: Jaxon Shipley
The freshman wideout burst onto the scene with a touchdown grab in his first game and hasn’t looked back. Shipley leads the Longhorns with 28 catches and is second with 391 receiving yards. His three touchdown catches are tied with tight end D.J. Grant for tops on the team. He’s also third with 459 all-purpose yards (76.5 yards per game). Shipley is an all-around player who’s done almost everything on a football field this year — even pass. He threw a five-yard touchdown against UCLA and connected on a 23-yard pass against BYU. Shipley’s best game came on the road at Iowa State, when he caught six balls for 141 yards and a touchdown. The rookie is also involved in the run game, carrying 10 times for 32 yards. So far, Shipley’s made people forget about his older brother, Jordan, and started his own legacy at Texas.
Defensive MVP: Emmanuel Acho
Acho is making the most of his final season in Austin. The linebacker is the heart and soul of the defense, and plays like it. He leads the Longhorns with 58 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries. He’s also tied for the lead in sacks with two. Acho can do more than just stop the run, though. He’s defended two passes and broken up another pair. Acho has five games with double-digit tackles, including a season-high 13 against BYU. His best performance came against UCLA at the Rose Bowl when he had 10 tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, a pass breakup and three QB hurries. Acho has done well transitioning to defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s new scheme and should continue to improve.
Most Valuable Freshman: Malcolm Brown
The freshman tailback has breathed life into a once dormant Longhorns ground attack. Brown leads Texas with 103 carries for 516 yards and has been a workhorse out of the backfield so far in 2011. He averages a clean 86 yards per game and five yards per carry. Brown’s debut against Rice (86 yards on 16 rushes) was the second best for a freshman since Jamaal Charles in 2005. He broke the century mark in only his third game, a 110-yard performance against UCLA. Brown’s best game came against Oklahoma State, when he carried 19 times for a season-high 135 yards and two touchdowns. He’s only the 13th freshman to rush for at least 500 yards and is on pace to be the Longhorns first 1,000 yard rusher since Charles in 2007.
Printed on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 as: Texan MVP Awards