Texas Running Backs Coming off Strong Game

From Daje Johnson's opening touchdown run to Johnathan Gray's first touchdown, the running backs showed out well against Baylor.

Texas co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Major Applewhite said the mood in his room was a good one.

"They loved it," Applewhite said of Gray's first touchdown. "They were all teasing Johnathan. They were like, 'You better have gotten this because if you got dragged down at the three or four, Joe [Bergeron] was going to score.'

"He's the trash man," Applewhite joked of Bergeron. "He picks up all the loose trash. It gives those guys just a little extra incentive to score from far out."

That wasn't an issue on Johnson's game-starting 84-yard touchdown run.

"He will have some stuff out of the backfield and some stuff at wideout," Applewhite said. "Anytime you've got a guy that is that explosive, you've got to find a way to put the ball in his hands. Sometimes in the passing game coverage dictates that the ball goes elsewhere. It is harder to get the ball to a certain guy in the passing game, so sometimes the best way is to just hand it to him."

Much of the credit for last week's performance went to a series of more physical practices, but Applewhite said it was a balancing act.

"I think most coaches will tell you, if they are honest, that when you start flying around and you are full contact in the season you start to worry," Applewhite said. "It's a double-edged sword. We are helping our team learning how to play with a better pad level. We are helping our team to be more physical at the point of attack. The defensive players are getting better in terms of their tackling. The offensive players are getting a better feel for the pad level that they are going to have to block. The running backs are getting a better feel for the pad level when they are going to be approached by a tackler.

"So there are a lot of positives about it, but then the other side of that is: what if a guy gets hurt?" Applewhite said. "There is some risk-reward in that, and we've got to balance that. It is something we talk about a lot in staff meetings and balance out how much of this are we going to do today. We are three or four days away from the game so how much are we going to do on Wednesday? How much are we going to do on Thursday? Personally as a running backs coach, I like to take those shots because I can't in certain areas of practice emphasize pad level enough. The only thing that is going to teach you to get your pads down is when someone is coming at you."

The Longhorns continued to bring that effort to practice while preparing for Kansas.

"Compared to last year, [the Jayhawks] are very sound in what they do," Applewhite said. "They have great coaching, you can see that. They line up well. They understand their leverage. They understand how to take on blocks. Their coverage is good outside, and they've got tough, strong, stout linebackers. Up front they are playing a four-man front this year instead of a three-man front. What I see is I see them playing harder, number one, and I see them in position more to make plays.

"What we talk to our team about is right now we are not good enough to sit there on the schedule and look at it and say, 'We are going to beat them, we are going to beat them and this one is going to be hard,'" Applewhite said. "We are not at that stage. Every week we have to show up and play. If we don't play well then we are capable of being beat. We've got to have to have the mentality of a blue-collar worker that we are going in there, we have a job to do — I don't care what it is — and we are going to go and get it done regardless of the opponent. We talked to them about nameless and faceless opponents. It doesn't matter [who they are], this is their structure and this is how we have to block it. It could be the steel curtain or it could be whoever over there, but we've got to get ready to play those guys."


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