Spring Preview: Texas Backfield

With Texas kicking off spring practice this week, here's a look at what Longhorn fans can expect out of the backfield.

QUARTERBACK — Case McCoy (junior), David Ash (sophomore), Connor Brewer (freshman)

Ash and McCoy shared the job back-and-forth through most of 2011, though Ash is probably the player to watch. He's had an excellent offseason so far, according to sources in the program, and is developing as a leader. The big key there will be to improve his decision-making and his deep ball, as Ash completed 56.6 percent of his passes with a 4-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. With the Texas running game, the Longhorns need to be able to hit on passes over the top, and misses in games like the Missouri contest could have changed last season's outcome. But this is a new year, and Ash has the physical tools to wrest the job away permanently.

McCoy will likely be the primary backup, at least initially, and most teams don't have as experienced a second option. McCoy completed 61.4 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He's limited physically, but he knows the playbook and is accurate enough to push Ash and stay as a viable No. 2. Brewer enrolled early and will have a chance to showcase his abilities as the top job hasn't been sown up yet. Don't be surprised if he struggles early, but finds his sea legs about halfway through camp, then pushes McCoy for the No. 2 job heading into the summer.

RUNNING BACK — Jeremy Hills (senior), D.J. Monroe (senior), Joe Bergeron (sophomore), Malcolm Brown (sophomore)

Bergeron took the early lead in the Brown-Bergeron battle when Brown wasn't healthy. Then Brown healed up and won the starting job. He was on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards before getting a nagging turf toe injury. Then Bergeron starred before getting hurt himself. Now, with both players fully healthy, Texas fans will get a chance to see what the two-headed monster could look like in the fall. Expect Brown to be back No. 1, as he has typically been ahead of Bergeron when they've both been healthy. But Bergeron should continue to push Brown to reach his full potential. And while Brown has slightly more big-play ability, Bergeron could fill in for Cody Johnson as the team's short-yardage back.

Hills did a nice job of filling in when he got a chance late last year, and showed his value as a third-down back. Monroe is expected to run track again, but will also take part in spring practice. His speed and one-play game-breaking ability is a novelty in this backfield, at least until Johnathan Gray and Daje Johnson report in the fall. This is a group deep with talent and experience, one of the best on the squad.

FULLBACK — Ryan Roberson (senior), Chet Moss (sophomore)

Gone is Cody Johnson, who had an up-and-down senior year at fullback. He'll be replaced by a pair of former linebackers, both of whom are tough, physical players who aren't afraid to come downhill and hit you in the mouth. Roberson will likely have the job to start, as he's more experienced, but Moss has the size and athletic ability to blend in well there. And keep an eye out for a formation or two that could utilize Bergeron as a fullback to make use of both he and Brown in the backfield at the same time. That probably won't be an every-down occurrence, but neither Roberson nor Moss is necessarily the pass-catching threat at the position that Bergeron could be. Of course, Texas could also utilize a tight end/H-back in that role as well.

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