Season Preview: Running Backs

2010 in Review: For the third straight year a Texas running back has failed to eclipse 600 yards rushing for the season. Blame it on injuries Blame it on the linemen not opening up holes to run through. Blame it on players not stepping up to become a featured back. Blame it on Mack Brown not being able to recruit a big-time back. Blame it on the coaching in general! Blame it on whatever you want, the fact is the Texas running game hasn’t been good since Jamaal Charles left after his 1,600-yard breakout year in 2007. Each running back had a shot at being a feature back last season including Cody Johnson, Fozzy Whittaker, Tre Newton and D.J. Monroe (all of which are back in 2011 except for Newton who was forced to quit football due to too many concussions).

Key Returner: According to the first depth chart released this week, Johnson will move to fullback while Whittaker gets the first shot at being the featured tailback. If Whittaker can stay healthy, he will play a major role in the Horns bouncing back from last year’s disappointing season. New strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie and Jeff Madden have helped Fozzy put on more weight and muscle to prevent future injury.

[Coach Wylie and Coach Madden] are guys that have been instrumental in helping me maintain my weight, put on more weight initially and then being able to maintain that through fall camp. It’s probably the strongest that I’ve ever been. I also weigh the most that I ever have, and being able to maintain that is helping me be very efficient and [helped] not getting injured.I feel like I give that all to Coach Wylie and Coach Madden.” – Fozzy Whittaker, Texas Running Back

Player to Watch: The obvious choice is true freshman Malcolm Brown, who is currently listed as and either/or backup to Whittaker at tailback. He led Cibolo Steele High School to the 5A-DII football state championship last year, and  is easily the biggest running back recruit to come to the 40 Acres since Cedric Benson. Fans are clamoring for Brown to see the field early, like Benson, and rightfully so after seeing what he did in high school (6,663 rushing yards, 86 rushing TDs and 9.8 yards per carry). If he just rushed for half the yardage that he did in high school, he would rank in the top 4 running backs all-time at Texas (behind Ricky Williams, Benson and Earl Campbell). Just in case anyone wanted to know, the freshman rushing record for yards in a season is 1,053 (set by Benson in 2001).

For the Running Backs to be successful, they need to … find a feature back and stop the streak of dwindling rushing numbers. Since the 2007 season, the team rushing yards and touchdowns have decreased every year (from 2,698 yards and 35 TDs in ’07 to 1,806 yards and 19 TDs last season). If Texas is going to bring back the tradition of producing big-time running backs, they’ve got a promising prospect in Brown and 2012 commit Johnathan Gray who will provide a future 1-2 punch. But the question is 2011, and it remains to be seen if what kind of production Texas will get out of its running backs.

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No more guessing: UT releases first depth chart

Mack Brown and Horns released the first depth chart for the game against Rice on September 3rd. Upon first glance, there are a few moves that should excite fans. Of course, first off we have to mention that the quarterback situation remains unchanged from 2010. The “four-way QB battle” has ended exactly like last season with Garrett Gilbert as starter and Case McCoy as his backup. With the depth chart comes the news that third/fourth-string QB Connor Wood is going to transfer to Colorado. With David Ash and verbal commit Connor Brewer in-waiting, you can’t blame Wood for wanting to find a place he could get on the field sooner rather than later. True freshman Jaxon Shipley will start as the H receiver and be the first in line to return punts. Mason Walters will remain at right guard, where he started all 12 games last season, while sophomore Trey Hopkins takes over at right tackle. Calvin Howell wins the battle starting battle at defensive tackle and Angleton High School alumni Quandre Diggs and D.J. Monroe will return kickoffs.

2011 Depth Chart: vs. Rice

OFFENSE
Position No. Player | No. Player | No. Player
Wide Receiver (H) 8 Jaxon Shipley | 81 Miles Onyegbule
Wide Receiver (Z) 9 John Harris OR 4 Darius White
Tight End (Y) 87 Dominique Jones | 18 D.J. Grant |
|
89
85
Barrett Matthews
Ahmard Howard
Right Tackle 75 Trey Hopkins | 70 Paden Kelley
Right Guard 72 Mason Walters | 79 Thomas Ashcraft OR 66 Sedrick Flowers
Center 55 Dominic Espinosa | 73 Garrett Porter
Left Guard 78 David Snow | 77 Luke Poehlmann
Left Tackle 56 Tray Allen | 68 Josh Cochran
Wide Receiver (X) 1 Mike Davis | 3 DeSean Hales OR 16 Bryant Jackson
Quarterback 7 Garrett Gilbert | 6 Case McCoy |
OR
14
5
David Ash
Connor Wood
Tailback 2 Fozzy Whittaker | 24 Joe Bergeron OR
|
28
26
Malcolm Brown
D.J. Monroe
Fullback 11 Cody Johnson | 41 Jamison Berryhill
H-Back 19 Blaine Irby | 15 Darius Terrell
Place-Kicker 19 Justin Tucker | 31 Ben Pruitt

DEFENSE
Position No. Player | No. Player | No. Player
Buck 44 Jackson Jeffcoat | 9 Dravannti Johnson OR 88 Cedric Reed
Tackle (Nose) 91 Kheeston Randall | 99 Desmond Jackson | 95 Greg Daniels
Tackle 90 Calvin Howell | 85 Ashton Dorsey OR 96 Chris Whaley
Strong End 80 Alex Okafor | 92 Reggie Wilson
Strongside LB 3 Jordan Hicks | 15 Demarco Cobbs | 11 Tevin Jackson
Middle LB 1 Keenan Robinson | 33 Steve Edmond
Weakside LB 18 Emmanuel Acho | 5 Aaron Benson | 35 Kendall Thompson
Right CB 17 Adrian Phillips OR 28 Quandre Diggs |
OR
2
31
A.J. White
Leroy Scott
Free Safety 4 Kenny Vaccaro | 26 Mykkele Thompson OR 29 Sheroid Evans
Strong Safety 21 Blake Gideon | 7 Nolan Brewster
Left CB 2 Carrington Byndom OR 17 Adrian Phillips | 25 Josh Turner
Nickel 4 Kenny Vaccaro | 17 Adrian Phillips
Punter 19 Justin Tucker | 14 William Russ OR 14 David Ash

SPECIAL TEAMS
Position No. Player | No. Player | No. Player
Punt Returns 8 Jaxon Shipley | 28 Quandre Diggs | 1 Mike Davis
Kickoff Returns 26 D.J. Monroe | 28 Malcolm Brown | 4 Darius White
28 Quandre Diggs | 8 Jaxon Shipley | 2 Fozzy Whittaker
Kickoffs 19 Justin Tucker | 14 William Russ | 31 Ben Pruitt
Holder 86 Cade McCrary | 14 William Russ | 8 Jaxon Shipley
Snapper (PAT/FG) 48 Alex Zumberge | 49 Trey Wier | 78 David Snow
Snapper (Punts) 48 Alex Zumberge | 49 Trey Wier | 21 Blake Gideon
Gunners 26 Mykkele Thompson | 16 Bryant Jackson

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Season Preview: Defensive Backs

2010 in Review: The Horns had many struggles last season, but one of the biggest faults of the defense was the lack of forced turnovers. This was evident with the defensive backs’ lack of interceptions (UT ranked first nationally in interceptions in 2009 with 25). Texas had three cornerbacks go in the first five rounds of the NFL Draft this year (Aaron Williams in 2nd round, Curtis Brown in 3rd round and Chykie Brown in 5th round) and those three players accounted for one interception … TOTAL! Texas as a team only pulled down eight interceptions in 2010. All starting safeties return from a year ago, including senior Blake Gideon. Gideon is the model of consistency, posting more than 60 tackles in each of his three years as starter for the Horns.

Key Returner: Everyone knows what to expect from Gideon, but Kenny Vaccaro is the true wild card. The hard-hitting safety will be a key player when it comes to forcing more turnovers and laying the wood for the defense. He has one interception and two forced fumbles for his career, so he will have to improve on those numbers if the Horns are to be successful this year.

Player to Watch: Of the young crop of corners, the most interesting is true freshman Quandre Diggs. The brother of lifetime Longhorn Quentin Jammer, a three-year starter and All-America for Texas, is a big-time athlete and is guaranteed to see lots of playing time in his first season. He may start the year as the nickel corner, but expect to see a lot of No. 28 flying around the field. Fellow baby Horns Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips, both sophomores, will be the first to get a crack at the starting corner spots.

The Defensive Backs to be successful, they need to … not look like freshmen. Technically none of the starters will be actual freshmen, but no one who starts at corner for the Horns will have a start under his belt. Until senior Christian Scott returns from his three-game suspension, after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault, junior Nolan Brewster will be the only backup defensive back with any collegiate experience.

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sf: Longhorn Network Launches on UT Campus

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On Location: Launch of the Longhorn Network

On location for the first broadcast (which most people won’t be able to see) and will be posting some photos and hopefully some video later. Stay tuned.

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