Longhorns Loaded at Running Back

Is there a such thing as having too many good players at one position?

Don't ask that question to Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin about last year's Longhorns, who had an ideal running back situation only to lose their top three backs in a three-week period to injuries.

Even with the loss of Fozzy Whittaker to graduation, Harsin will likely have a similar situation in 2012, thanks to the return of top runners Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, along with Jeremy Hills, who saw time at the end of last year, and an influx of young talent.

I think this is exactly what a good football team, or a position that has good football players at that position, is all about," Harsin said. "You've got to talk about your role. Everybody does something maybe a little bit better or different than another guy. And they all deserve to play. It's not that. They all want to, and they deserve to play. It's a matter of OK, what is the best package for this player, and this player and so on and so forth.

"For a running back, you don't want to get into a back-and-forth, in-and-out, in-and-out," Harsin said. "You want to give those guys some reps so they start to get a hot hand a little bit. So you don't want to have too much of shotgunning guys back and forth and pulling guys out. But we'll start to identify their roles as we get past the first scrimmage and into the next few practices and define, these are inside guys, these are outside guys, here's a Wild guy, here's a sweep guy, here's a guy that we can put out as a receiver. Once we do that, we can start formulating our package and our plan and then building the offense around that."

While the Longhorns know what they have in Brown and Bergeron, most people wouldn't be surprised to see true freshman Johnathan Gray factor in, either. Gray was the National Gatorade Player of the Year, and set a national record for touchdowns scored.

"His work ethic [stands out]," Harsin said. "He's one of the guys, last year when Shipley came in as a freshman, he really stood out early. He just had a great work ethic about him. All these freshman now, I've been very impressed with these guys. So I think he falls right into the category of what all these freshmen have done through the summer and just their passion for playing. You can kind of see it out there.

"Johnathan's a guy that obviously loves the game, he's got a tremendous passion for it, he's been very successful in football, and it's very important to him," Harsin said. You can feel it. You can see it, from drills to team periods to the end of practice, he's into it, he's excited, he's trying to help guys around him stay motivated if they need it. And I think that's what you want."

Harsin was also quick to talk up fellow true freshman Daje Johnson, a speedster who will split his time between running back and wide receiver.

"He's been really good in practice," Harsin said. "We've kind of moved him around and done different things with him. He's just an explosive football player, is what he is. He can run, he catches the ball well, and so he's got a lot of different things that he can do and we can utilize him in areas.

"Now we continue to kind of put plays in and this offense grows for new guys, it starts to get to be a little bit [of] overload," Harsin said. "That will probably happen here in a day or so, and then we pull back. We just have to see how much he continues to retain and where we can utilize him. But so far, skill wise, he's done everything that we hoped he could do."


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