With senior Malcolm Brown graduating and junior Johnathan Gray possibly leaving early for the NFL draft, Texas is going to be looking for its next stable of running backs to lead the balanced running attack that head coach Charlie Strong wants.
Three backs in the 2015 recruiting class have already committed to the Longhorns, each with their own set of skills that could bolster the run game for the next four years.
Committed since April, Tristian Houston is a 5-foot-10, 203-pound speedster from North Shore High School in Galena Park, Texas. Rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN, Houston also held offers from UCLA, LSU and Mississippi State, among others. Houston ran for 18 TDs and almost 1,500 yards as a junior, netting almost 10 yards a carry.
On tape, it’s clear that Houston will not be used in short yardage situations, as he tends to rely on quick cuts and shifty moves over physical running, similar to Gray.
When Kirk Johnson ended his junior year at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, his only college offer was from the University of Texas. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound bruiser battled injuries his junior year, leading to poor showings at a Nike event last summer and unimpressive highlight tapes.
His father, former Longhorn legend Johnnie Johnson, said Kirk was only ever at 60 percent last season, causing him to miss games and make a few colleges back off their recruitment. Assuming the younger Johnson can heal enough to play as well as his sophomore tape suggests, Texas could be glad other schools backed out. Johnson has the potential to combine his sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash speed and strong legs into a dangerous back, with the ability run through and past defenders.
Jordan Stevenson — of the football powerhouse South Oak Cliff High in Dallas — is a smaller back than the previous two. At only 5 feet 9
inches and 185 pounds, Stevenson will have to rely on his speed to be successful out of the backfield. He ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp event in 2013, which matches most elite high school track stars. Although he’s not going to be able to transform into a power back in college, his ability to get a low center of gravity and run behind his pads makes him difficult to bring down in the open field. One of Stevenson’s best attributes is his speed, and he runs laterally as little as possible to take advantage of his quickness.
Out of Texas’ three running back commits, Stevenson has the best chance to get on the field early and often. Johnson is a bit of a wild card after an injury-plagued season, and Houston hasn’t been utilized enough at North Shore to see what all he is capable of.