When scouring over the Longhornâ€™s offense for the 2012 season, there is no denying that the running backs will be the strength of this offense, and thatâ€™s exactly what Mack Brown wanted when he drew up his blue print for this new offensive scheme. And in the past couple of years Mack, the recruiting king, has been able to bring some very talented running backs to Austin.
Much of the conversation this off-season regarding the running back position has been centered on who will emerge as the better back. I think that question is a stupid one to be asking right now, if at all. These running backs are all very different in their styles and in return should be used differently for whatever the situation calls for. The strength of this group will not be built on one player emerging as the best back, rather it will be built on using the running back with the best skills and talent for the given situation. Letâ€™s take a look at each player before I continue.
Joe Bergeronâ€“ Averaging 6.4 yards per carry last season, Joe Bergeron is everything youâ€™d want in a power running back. His running style currently seems to be very straightforward and simple. As a matter of fact, thatâ€™s a great way to describe Bergeronâ€™s running style â€“ Straightforward. His power is in his legs, which helps keep his weight low to the ground and allows him to excel in exploding through holes in the line and through defenders. The first time I saw Bergeron play, in person, was at the â€œUSA vs. The Worldâ€ football game 2 years ago. I knew he was a talented back but what I didnâ€™t expect was for him to take the game over the way he did and completely run over â€œThe Worldâ€™sâ€ defense (writing that makes me imagine a â€œWorld Football Leagueâ€â€¦ How weird would that be?) On each play Bergeron ran like a mad man on a mission to flatten anything and anyone in his path. And that bulldozing power showed once more when he hit the field in Austin. But, what I really like about his running style is that he doesnâ€™t dance around in the backfield waiting for holes to open up like some of the other big power backs UT has had in recent years (Cough, cough, Henry Melton, cough). In addition, Bergeron is more dynamic than your typical power running back because he also has great vertical speed for his size, and he is deceivingly more elusive than would appear, which only makes him more lethal as a runner. Joe should have no problem continuing to be the power back for the Longhorns this season.
Malcolm Brown â€“ So if Joe Bergeron will be the â€œbruiserâ€ for UT this upcoming season where does that put Malcolm Brown? Last season Malcolm came to the 40 Acres as the more highly touted recruited. A five star, Brown was expected to win the starting job and dominate on the field from day one. And though Brown saw success on the field and was an effective force in the offense, the word â€œdominateâ€ should not be put into a description of Brownâ€™s performance last season. Before he played in his first game, I thought we would see a running back that would rip off huge, home run-like runs of over 40-50 yards. And see explosiveness and a killer running instinct from the five star recruit. Instead, Brownâ€™s longest run was for just 27 yards and he didnâ€™t quite show the explosiveness through the holes that was expected. However, Malcolm Brown was a true freshman. And as a freshman, like with David Ash, adjusting to the game speed can make a huge difference between being one step quicker than the defense and/or making that one extra move to hit the home run play. There is a lot to like about Malcolm Brown, though. I love watching his combination of patience and vision when he first hits the offensive line. He sees the holes very well and usually makes great decisions that net positive yards. At the same time, I want to see him hit those holes with more explosiveness once he finds them. He seemed to be a half step slow hitting those holes but if he improves that then breaking off the big runs should be inevitable.
Reserves â€“ Running back is not UTâ€™s strength just because of the talent at the position; itâ€™s the strength because of the NUMBER of players at the position with talent. Highly touted freshman Jonathan Gray and experienced, versatile Jeremy Hills will be fighting for snaps as back ups all season long.
*In my original post I stated that Jonathan Gray would average about 5-10 carries a game. But I decided to go back and take a look at that statement and then crunch some numbers from last season and I’m critiquing myself. (I’ll throw up another post with the numbers I crunched to explain why I made this critique). But it should be pretty easy for Gray to get about 10-15 touches a game. Whether it’s on the ground or catching passes out of the backfield, he will be a nice weapon to throw into games to spell Bergeron and Brown.*Â Granted, I know there may be a game or two where he is called upon for many more plays than that, but otherwise I think his playing time is very limited. The only other way I see him receiving a good amount of snaps is if he wins the job as the running back in the game on passing situations. With Bergeron not recording a single catch last year and Brown catching three passes for 17 yards, neither of those guys really showed they are viable pass catchers yet. But for now I see that job being handed to Brown. As for Gray, I like his skills and potential a lot. He has incredible speed, quickness, vision, and strength. Thereâ€™s no question in my mind he will be a big time playmaker in the near future. However, what I love is this athleteâ€™s positive attitude towards the running back committee this up coming season and his work ethic to be the best. Thatâ€™s the type of attitude that often goes hand in hand with athletic stardom.
Jeremy Hills simply provides solid depth at the position. His potential as a player has pretty much been reached, but if called upon he can step in and produce positive yards. Other than the first two games, I donâ€™t expect him to see the field much unless the injury bug strikes again.
This brings me back to my first statement. Having Joe Bergeronâ€™s powerful, downhill, bruising style, combined with Malcolm Brownâ€™s patient yet physical style he utilizes with his exceptional vision, and also throwing in Jonathan Grayâ€™s expected speed, quickness, and play making ability, the Longhorns seem to have a back to use in any situation they encounter, as long as these players can all stay healthy. I do expect there to be certain games where one of the running backs will have a huge day by himself. And I also expect there to be games when the production will be spread out somewhat evenly. These players are all very talented running backs but they all have very different styles that will give the Horns a major advantage for this offense. I cannot wait to see how offensive coordinator Brian Harsin uses each of the athletes in his game plans, especially as they continue to gain more playing time and experience throughout the season. Just imagine a package where Bergeron, Brown, and Gray are all on the field at the same timeâ€¦ Thatâ€™s just scary.
Crunched some numbers from 2011 season and projected some for 2012 season. Join the conversation and tell us what you think.Â https://www.hornsports.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1331&p=7657#post7657
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