Post-Spring Outlook: Running Back

This spring, Texas saw a competition from its top two backs.

In a national article I perused lately, Texas running back Malcolm Brown was referred to as "disappointing." He said that Brown wasn't overly explosive, and appeared to be just another power back.

But Brown has been far from disappointing for the Longhorns on paper. The running back gained the starting job by the third game of the season, and had three 100-plus yard games and five touchdowns in his five contests as a starter before suffering a turf toe injury that never truly healed.

In those first seven games, Brown rushed for 635 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry, including 5.1 yards per carry against teams not named Oklahoma. He averaged 127 yards in each of his last two contests before getting hurt, and if you carry his averages from his seven healthy games and apply it to a 13-game season, Brown would have finished with 1,179 yards and nine touchdowns as a true freshman.

Then, a more-healthy Brown came out in the spring and showed increased quickness and explosiveness, the same quick feet in the hole, ability to read zone blocks and find the right cut.

So what exactly is the issue, here? In an interesting twist of irony, it's not necessarily that Brown has done poorly. Instead, it's that people can't stop talking about Joe Bergeron. The irony, of course, is that when Brown entered the 40 Acres as a five-star prospect, and arguably the top running back in his class, Bergeron was largely an afterthought, a big body who most thought was likely to get shifted to fullback.

But Bergeron impressed the coaches early, when Brown fought some early injuries in camp, and Brown actually had to take the job from both incumbent Fozzy Whittaker and from Bergeron once he healed up. And while Brown was impressive, when Bergeron finally got his chance, he went supernova, rushing for 136 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries at the end of the Kansas game. And when Brown was injured and couldn't make the Texas Tech game, Bergeron upped those numbers further, rushing for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries before suffering an injury of his own.

So, if you're keeping track, Brown averaged 127 yards and 5.4 yards per carry in his last two healthy games. Bergeron averaged 163.5 yards and 7.8 yards per carry in HIS last two healthy games.

Then, Bergeron showed up this spring looking so cut at 241 pounds that his former high school teammates asked if he had lost weight (Bergeron played at 230 or so pounds in high school, and was somewhere around 235 last year). Bergeron had an outstanding spring, leaving many people to wonder if Brown got Wally Pipp'ed.

With the Longhorns looking to throw the ball a bit more, it's likely that there won't be quite as many carries to go around. And with an excellent spring from senior Jeremy Hills, who has some value in third-down situations, D.J. Monroe receiving his few touches (now from the wide receiver position) and Johnathan Gray on the way, it's everybody's favorite question to ask how the carries are going to go.

But that's something that can wait until the fall. The important thing is that the Longhorns appear to have three very playable backs on the roster even before Gray gets here, including a top-two who would start for pretty much every team in the league. And if last year's injury woes showed anything, it's that the No. 2 guy better be ready.

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