Looking at the Longhorns: running backs

Total blue Sports has been breaking down the Longhorn offense. The next preview on the list is of the Texas running backs, some of which played a part in the Longhorns' victory over BYU in 2011. The Cougars hope to return the favor, but they'll have to first stop a talented group of ball-carriers.

There will be a bevy of running backs that the Texas coaches will throw at the Cougar defense, all of which are talented and experienced.

Johnathan Gray

"Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown were both ranked as the No. 2 backs in their respective recruiting classes," said Fox Sports Texas Reporter Kevin Flaherty. "[Gray] really got his start last year when Malcolm Brown went down and got injured. They needed someone who could be their every-down back, but he's someone who might not have elite speed and elite size, but he's elite in every other category you could put on a running back – his balance, his vision, his acceleration and all the other little things that people don't mention nearly enough that makes a great running back."

BYU linebacker Austen Jorgensen, who will start against Texas if Uani Unga isn't healthy enough, shared his insights on Gray from what he's seen on film.

"Number 32 [Gray] is a fast guy who can run well between the tackles or bounce it outside," said Jorgensen. "He's a guy who's probably their primary back, and then they bring guys for a rotation, but number 32 is a guy that's really talented and a good runner."

BYU fans will see Gray line up as the primary back. He comes in at 5 feet 11 inches and 205 pounds, and didn't face BYU in 2011. This preseason Gray was a second-team all-Big 12 pick by Athlon.

"Gray is the starting back and Brown rotates through," said Flaherty. "Brown is a very good back, but with him he hasn't been able to stay healthy throughout his career. Brown has had his ups and downs and is a powerful guy. He was the one that came in when Texas last played BYU and was the big difference.

Daje Johnson

Primarily used as a slot receiver, Johnson will occasionally line up in the backfield. He could become the Longhorns' top offensive weapon on a team loaded with talent.

"Another guy who will get some carries at the running back spot, even though he's really a slot receiver, is Daje Johnson," said Flaherty. "He has blazing speed and elite acceleration. He might be Texas's top overall weapon. Up in Oregon at some big deal up there he ran a 4.34 laser-timed forty, so that kid can really move and they'll bring him in at certain times and play him at tailback."

" [Johnson] is getting the ball in space and he's good, [ Jaxon Shipley] as well, and they've got a couple – two or three – running backs that if you're off one gap, they can go further than you want them to go," said Coach Howell.

"I'm going to be responsible for the dive plays, a lot of the times tackling [Johnson], tackling [Gray], and [Brown]," said Jorgensen. "And then again our outside guys need to be sound and not bite in on the dive, so that way we're sound."

Malcolm Brown

Another running back Cougar fans will see is 6-foot, 225-pound Malcolm Brown, who was instrumental in Texas's victory over BYU back on September 10, 2011. Brown was a freshman then and has since racked up five career 100-yard rushing games.

Last week he caught a short pass out of the backfield and took it 74 yards for a score.

"Like Gray, Brown maybe doesn't quite get enough credit for some of the little things," said Flaherty. "His feet are outstanding, and if you watch him on tape what you see is his ability to make guys miss tackles in the hole. He gives you just enough shift where guys don't get enough pad on him and that allows him to break tackles. He's a bigger and more powerful option than Gray is."

"Instead of dancing around, they like to hit it, so we have to be gap-sound when we play these guys," said Jorgensen. "They're going to try and hit the hole fast instead of maybe like a guy like Jamaal [Williams] who maybe reads it and then can cut back. If the design of the play is to go straight ahead, they'll go straight ahead."

The third back that will rotate in is 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound Joe Bergeron, who will often play the role of a fullback.

"Bergeron is a really good short-yardage back," said Flaherty. "Bergeron may get some carries here and there, but I think last year he got a little too heavy at, I would say … 245 pounds. He wasn't as explosive as Malcolm Brown was at 225. Texas doesn't really use the fullback that much. What they'll do is use a tight end as an h-back or line up Bergeron as that fullback option."

"They're talented," said Cougar linebacker Spencer Hadley. "Their running backs run hard and have good vision. I think it's a good challenge. It will be fun."

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