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.

One Comment

  1. petevincent says:

    let’s not forget BIG JOE BERGERON! He flew under the radar for perhaps all of his recruitment, but has absolutely killed it in practice and has found his way onto the 2-deep. Rumor had it that he trucked Kenny Vacarro during practice, however, these rumors have been adamantly denied. Tough to speculate on Re: Vacarro, let’s just hope he’s capable of trucking everyone else!

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