Texas' projected starting tight end Blaine Irby will miss the upcoming season as he recovers from a dislocated right knee injury sustained early last season.
Texas football athletic trainer Kenny Boyd confirmed that Irby sustained significant ligament and nerve damage as a result of an injury sustained in the Longhorns' 52-10 victory over Rice last Sept. 20.
Irby started three games for the Longhorns last season before his injury, producing 10 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Irby, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior from Camarillo, Calif., has vowed to help his team in a variety of ways during the upcoming season despite not playing.
"The injury has taught me a lot of things like patience," Irby said. "It was devastating at first, but I've come a long way. I realize this is an obstacle I have to overcome and it's going to take time. I feel like I've made the best of the situation and I'm working to make sure something positive comes out of this."
After his injury, Texas went into three- and four-wide receiver formations almost exclusively as they played a tight end only on certain running plays late last season.
Texas coaches had hoped Irby would be ready to play this season after undergoing two surgeries and extensive rehabilitation during the last several months.
"It's always unfortunate any time a young man sustained such a devastating injury, but in Blaine's case it was a real blow to our offense and our team," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "He's such a tremendous leader, player and person. We have a great history of tight ends and Blaine was quickly developing into the type of player to follow in those footsteps."
With Irby missing the 2009 season, it means that junior tight ends Greg Smith and Josh Marshall will have a chance at earning the starting position. Smith started four games for the Longhorns last season after Irby's injury. The Longhorns started their final four games in 2008 with a lineup that featured four wide receivers.
The injury also could provide playing time for freshmen tight ends Trey Graham and Barrett Matthews.
Texas' team orthopedic surgeon Carey Windler said Irby has developed "drop foot" on his injured right leg as he attempted to recover from the injury.
"With a knee dislocation like Blaine sustained, damage can occur to ligaments, nerves and arteries," Windler said. "Blaine sustained significant ligament damage as well as a major nerve injury. The trauma to his knee was dramatic, and he was very fortunate that no arterial injury occurred."
Windler said that Irby's recovery has been aided by his attitude, although he isn't quite ready to play.
"With all that Blaine has been through, he has maintained an amazing attitude and worked extremely hard in his rehab," Windler said. "He has recovered exceptionally well from his reconstruction and repair of multiple ligaments, but the variable that is so unpredictable is the recovery from nerve damage. He injured the peroneal nerve and has had a second procedure for that injury.
"The nerve has not yet recovered, and drop foot is the result. Overall, Blaine has recovered well, is in a brace for the foot drop and has progressed to light running. If you saw Blaine walking on campus, he would appear normal to most observers. But that doesn't translate to being able to compete at this level at this time."
Irby produced two catches for 29 yards while playing in 11 games during his freshman season with the Longhorns in 2007.
Tim Griffin covers college football for ESPN.com.