Running Start: Freshmen RBs Shine In Debut

It may take a village to replace Doak Walker-winning RB Cedric Benson. Junior Selvin Young is the current chief of Texas' tribe of explosive ball carriers, but a pair of true freshmen sent notice during the Horns' 60-3 shellacking of Louisiana-Lafayette that youth may be served as Texas now turns it attention to Ohio State.

Jamaal Charles showed ample evidence why coaches have whispered that he could be Texas' next great RB. Then again, what program wouldn't want an irresistible object like freshman RB Henry Melton?

"They're freshmen, but they're unusual freshmen," said Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis. "They came into camp wanting to play. They worked really hard. They're going to continue to get better as they get more comfortable out there."

Of course, sophomore Ramonce Taylor is clearly in his comfort zone whether he's at RB, SE or in the slot. Charles has the power and speed that head coach Mack Brown covets in his featured RB. Taylor is a racehorse while Melton is a workhorse but with plenty of giddy-up. Selvin Young is faster than Benson, has plenty of burst and may be the most determined thoroughbred in this stable.

Granted, UL-Lafayette's defense won't be confused with Ohio State's. Even so, one question was clearly answered Saturday: does Texas have a RB capable enough to keep defenses from keying exclusively on Vince Young. The answer is 'no' -- Texas has several tempo-setting RBs who can move the chains and throw different looks at opponents.

"It's probably been the coaches' dream to be able to turn around and pick a running back and throw him into the fire and watch him produce," Young said. "I feel like that's what we have."

Charles was the leading runner in what proved to be the top rushing debut by a Longhorn freshman in program history. His 135 yards on 14 carries broke Taylor's record (96 yards) set just last season against North Texas.

"I wasn't trying to make a statement," Charles said. "I was just trying to go out there and play my best."

The longest run of the night also belonged to Charles. Granted, his 45-yarder down the right sideline in the fourth quarter was during mop-up time with Texas sporting a 50-point bulge. But he demonstrated the kind of power and strength that lends credence to a statement he made earlier to Inside Texas when he said, "I'm going to make Longhorn fans forget about Adrian Peterson."

Yet, Charles believes there are enough balls to go around the stable of running backs, not to mention "love."

"We just love each other like family," he said. "It's not really a competition. We're just trying to do our work."

Melton, meanwhile, furnished the best run of the night -- but which one of his two TD rumbles was the most impressive?

His first collegiate TD run saw the Grapevine product churn his way through a logjam, orchestrate a complete 360, drag a defender a couple of yards before breaking free and into the end zone from 19 yards out. That made it 53-3 with 4:35 remaining in the third quarter. Then, on Texas' next possession, Melton broke at least six tackles to rumble in from the 22.

"My line had the holes going," Melton said. "I just cut through. I just happened to break a couple of tackles on the way to the end zone. I just went crazy, I guess."

Melton was the first freshman to lose his redshirt when he rumbled over right guard for five yards to move the chains on 3rd-and-2 at the UL-Lafayette 16 on Texas' second possession of the ballgame. That set up Selvin's TD run over right tackle two plays later as Texas would score on six straight first-half possessions.

"He's a big guy," Young observed. "Some guys coming in to hit him may be a little intimidated now. They're not going to come in at full force like they would."

Melton may have passed his audition at RB. His preseason stint at RB was considered on a trial basis as head coach Mack Brown previously inferred that someone with Melton's frame (6-3, 270) might serve the team better by filling the void at FB. While his freshman debut may seem like old times for Melton, his head coach is still reserving judgment on Melton's long-term status at RB.

"We put him in at the end of the game when (Louisiana-Lafayette) was tired," Brown said. "It will be interesting to see how well we does earlier in the game."

Taylor saw action as a wide receiver during the first 15 minutes and assumed his more familiar position in the backfield during Texas' first possession of the second quarter. RT scored during the Horns' next series on a 30-yard dash, his first TD of the season and one of three reverses he ran on the evening. (The play was set up by FL Brian Carter's 40-yard grab over the middle on a post pattern as part of a brisk four-play, 91-yard march.)

And all this is not taking into account the presence of one Vince Young whom, as we all know, is not only an extra RB in the backfield but who is also (for want of better word) transcendent in any football game that he commandeers. As has become customary, VY defers praises to the big guys up front.

"Hats off to our offensive line," VY said. "Those guys make so many plays that you don't see to open up the holes for the running backs. They're all great athletes, but all (the RBs) have to do is hit the hole. That's the kind of athletes they are."

Selvin, meanwhile, is not the least bit concerned about his starter's status.

"I feel like I can do anything," he said.

Shortly after the final whistle Saturday, Selvin told a reporter that he honestly was unfamiliar with the phrase "tailback-by-committee." He'll probably know more about it by the same time next Saturday night in Columbus.

SEE HOW THEY RUN: OPENING NIGHT NUMBERS

PLAYER.....CARRIES....YDS.......AVG.......LONG......TD

J. Charles........14........135..........9.6..........45..........1

S. Young..........8..........67..........8.4..........12..........1

R. Taylor..........5..........65..........13..........30..........1

H. Melton..........6.........65........10.8..........22..........2

V. Young..........7..........49..........7.0..........18..........1


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