See How They Run

It will be tailback-by-committee when Texas opens the 2008 campaign in little more than five months, according to offensive coordinator Greg Davis. But how are the heirs apparent to Jamaal Charles shaping up now that Longhorn spring football enters its stretch run?

For the first time in six seasons, and following Charles' decision to forgo his senior year, Texas does not return a high-profile playmaker to its backfield. A trio of Longhorns will tote the mail, but Vondrell McGee comes closest to what might be considered a featured back. The last time we saw the RS-sophomore he was running for 31 yards and a TD on five carries (6.1 ypc) in Texas' Holiday Bowl win against Arizona State. He appeared in 12 games in 2007, including a career-best 24 carries for 54 yards and a TD against Texas Tech.

McGee is expected to trot out with the Ones when Texas opens against Florida Atlantic on August 30. But he'll split time with senior Chris Ogbonnaya and RS-freshman Foswhitt (Fozzy) Whittaker.

"All three backs are doing a good job," Davis told Inside Texas. "Chris obviously brings some experience to the game. He's been our third-down back and does a great job with all the blitz pick-ups. But I've been real encouraged by both Vondrell and Fozzy. They both are explosive guys. Vondrell is more of a downhill runner, by nature, while Fozzy is more of a lateral runner. Both have come in and are competed hard. It may be by committee for a while but then we'll play the one who gets hot."

Ogbonnaya (6-1, 225) is dependable, physical and sturdy, but does not bring the kind of explosiveness to the field that the diminutive McGee does. A fifth-year player, Ogbonnaya posted 66 yards and two TDs on 22 carries last season. He added 204 yards on 21 receptions. Coaches toyed with the idea of lifting Whittaker's redshirt last season after he rushed for 1,000+ yards in three consecutive seasons at Pearland. He finished his prep career as the No. 6 all-time leading rusher in Texas 5A history with 5,717 yards.

"Each (RB) has a different style," Davis said. "Fozzy (5-10, 195) might remind you of Hodges Mitchell, where Vondrell, if you were to classify him according to guys who have played for us, might remind you of Cedric Benson. He's more of a slasher."

By comparison, Benson stood at 6-0, 210 at the beginning of his true sophomore season while McGee, as a RS-sophomore, is currently listed at 5-10, 205. McGee's height may be generously listed, but he's hard-nosed, decisive ball-carrier who runs like he's been shot out of cannon. He virtually became Texas' designated scorer inside the five-yard line after Charles' costly goal-line fumble against Oklahoma. McGee's eight TDs was fifth all-time for Longhorn freshmen; he also posted 297 yards on 75 carries in 2007.

"We'll continue to use '21' personnel," Davis concluded. "We're having a session of it every day this spring. At the same time, we want to do what we do best."

Ogbonnaya can play both FB and RB, but RS-freshman Cody Johnson has been playing almost entirely at FB this spring, Davis told Inside Texas.

First-year Defensive Coordinator Will Mushchamp offered his other-side-of-the-ball assessment of Texas' RBs.

"We've got three elusive guys," Muschamp said. "Vondrell is a power guy who's also got good speed on the edge. Fozzy and Chris have also got some speed. They can all create problems within the gun-run system that we run because they create one-on-one situations in the open field where you've got to tackles. They pose a lot of issues within our style and our attack."

Wednesday is Pro-Timing Day at the Forty Acres. The Horns return to practice Thursday, while the annual Orange-White scrimmage is slated for noon, March 29.


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