Longhorn Position Previews: Running Backs

As summer is officially upon us and the team starts their summer workouts, Burnt Orange Beat will be breaking down the roster and providing positional unit analysis for the upcoming season and a 2010 outlook. Today's unit is Running Back.

The Mack Brown era started with seven straight seasons of 1000-yard rushers with Ricky Williams, Hodges Mitchell, and Cedric Benson. In the national championship season of 2005, quarterback Vince Young posted just over a thousand yards while the individual running back production took a backseat. Cumulatively, however, the team posted great numbers with four backs (Charles, Taylor, Young, and Melton) combining for over 2200 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Since that season, Texas has had only one back break the 1000-yard plateau and that was Jamal Charles in 2007 with 1619 yards. For that matter, only Charles (831) and Selvin Young (591) have cracked the 500-yard mark – both in 2006.

The 2008 season saw four backs split the majority of the snaps over the course of the year. Oddly, each had just one game with over 15 rushing attempts and each had at least one game with zero rushing attempts. Only departed Chris Ogbonnaya (127 vs. Oklahoma) and Cody Johnson (102 vs. Texas A&M) posted 100-yard games.

Spotlight: Cody Johnson

Over the spring, the three top returning backs, Vondrell McGee, Cody Johnson, and Foswhitt Whittaker, each worked to become the go-to guy in the backfield, but all three suffered some sort of setback due to nagging injuries or class obligations.

Last year's short yardage back, Cody Johnson, looked to be seizing control of the backfield but tore a hamstring and missed the last half of spring drills. Johnson, though, looks like the guy most likely to step and be the starting running back. Johnson can play in a more traditional one-back set, a two-back set, or next to McCoy in the shotgun. Make no mistake that pass protection will be the #1 requirement from the backs this season as Colt McCoy's health will determine the successes of the team.

Key reserves: Vondrell McGee, Foswhitt Whittaker, and Chris Whaley

Junior Vondrell McGee actually started three of the four non-conference games in 2008 and will be the most experienced back on the roster, but he has yet to show much breakaway ability. Fozzy Whittaker, on the other hand, has shown flashes of the quickness needed to succeed in this running scheme, but just can't seem to stay healthy enough to contribute on a consistent basis.

Incoming freshman Chris Whaley rushed for over 7,000 yards in high school and certainly brings something different to the table than McGee and Whittaker. Whaley's imposing 6-3, 245 pound frame could be the change of pace that the ground game needs.

Fullbacks: Antwan Cobb and Ryan Roberson

Junior fullback Antwan Cobb finally looks healthy and ready to contribute in the fall. The 6-0, 215-pound back drew off-season praise from Running Back coach Major Applewhite for his tenacity at the point of attack and his ability to catch the ball. Ryan Roberson's late spring move over to fullback from linebacker seems to have stuck and the horse from Brenham will provide quality depth in case Cobb's injuries resurface.

2010 Outlook

Everyone is back from the 2009 team for the 2010 season, so look out for some attrition or position changes since seven scholarship tailbacks seems like a bit much with the addition verbal commitment Traylon Shead.

Vondrell McGee, SR
Cody Johnson, JR
Fozzy Whittaker, JR
Jeremy Hills, JR
Tre Newton, SO
Chris Whaley, RFR or SO
Traylon Shead, FR

Antwan Cobb, SR
Ryan Roberson, SO

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