If you see D.J. Monroe around campus this week, give the little guy a big hug.
The 5-foot-9-inch, 171-pound sophomore running back is one of the smallest, most underappreciated and underused stars on a stagnant Texas offense. Monroe is not a diamond in the rough, but a diamond on the bench. He’s the talented, athletic, quick, shifty and speedy player that averages a mammoth 11.7 yards per carry. That’s more than three times the average of the rest of Texas’ rushers.
The tragedy is not the fact that the Longhorns’ offense stinks this season under offensive coordinator Greg Davis. The tragedy is that despite Monroe’s dominance when he’s in the game, he has only touched the ball 12 times. So why doesn’t he get the playing time?
“You’ll have to ask Greg that question,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown. “He’s the one that handles the offense.”
Davis has been under more scrutiny this season than he has ever been in his time at Texas. He originally committed to use Monroe as a receiver and prepared him for that role until the start of the season. But when the season started, Davis came to his senses and moved Monroe to running back. Naturally, Monroe was months behind on preparation and playbook. When he honestly admitted that to the media after his big 65-yard performance against Oklahoma, he was yelled at and scolded behind closed doors. That was Monroe’s only media appearance.
Monroe didn’t get any carries in the first two games. When he started making big plays against Texas Tech and UCLA, people began to wonder why he wasn’t being used as much.
“He’s got a long way to go with his pass protection,” Davis said.
That was the excuse for several weeks, but with the offense nearing an all-time low, pass protection should be the last thing the coaches ask of Monroe. Name one elite NFL running back known for his blocking abilities. Remember that huge play when Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson won the game by blocking for the quarterback? Right. Besides, if pass protection is seriously the problem coaches have with Monroe, why doesn’t the same policy apply to the struggling offensive line?
Luckily, at 4-3 and Brown’s worst ever start at Texas, Davis is finally owning up to his mistake.
“I think I should’ve used D.J. more,” Davis said. “In the first half, I take total responsibility. It was my fault. I’ve got to get him involved.”
With Davis now in the hot seat, expect to see Monroe get more chances this week against Baylor. The Bears have the second worst rush defense in the Big 12 South, largely because of their slower linebackers, a defense that matches up perfectly for Monroe. On Monday, when the depth chart came out, Monroe was fourth-string running back, behind Tre’ Newton, Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson. Hopefully, after a pressing week of practice where “nobody’s job is safe,” Monroe will charm the coaches into letting him get more chances.
If Monroe once again has to watch most of the game from the sideline, you’ll know who to blame.
“It was my fault we didn’t use D.J. more,” Davis said, getting touchy when asked about Monroe a second time. “I don’t know what else to tell you. It was my fault. We’ve got to get him the ball more. I did wrong. I don’t know what else I can say. We’ve got to be more aware of it.”
Whatever it takes, Monroe deserves a chance at turning the offense’s woes around.
“I think there are certain things he brings to the table that we have to take advantage of,” Davis said.