No one complained when Malcolm Brown carried the ball just 41 times over the final six games of last season. A nagging turf toe injury kept him out of three of those games and rendered him in effective in the other three.
After running for 105 yards — two fewer than he did in the last six contests in 2011 combined — and a touchdown in Texas’ season-opening win over Wyoming, it wasn’t an injury that limited Brown’s playing time last weekend. It was purely personnel and play-calling decisions.
A presumably healthy Brown had just five yards on two carries in the Longhorns’ 45-0 victory over New Mexico last week, along with two receptions for 23 yards. The same Brown that came out of Cibolo Steele High School as the nation’s top running back prospect a year ago, replaced senior Fozzy Whittaker as the team’s top tailback in just his third career game, and ran for a team-high 742 yards last season got as many carries as the Longhorns’ backup quarterback.
That will have to change this week.
“Malcolm Brown played more actually than other guys in the game,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “There were seven or eight plays that he was in on that were run-pass options or possibilities to check out of them. It just happened to work out that way. Malcolm’s done a nice job. When he was in there we had a more loaded box than what we had seen on film.”
If that’s truly the reason why Brown had such a limited workload this past weekend, then the solution is simple — don’t leave any wiggle room for Brown to not carry the ball when he’s on the field. Save the run-pass options for when Johnathan Gray is playing or check out of rushing plays in favor a pass when Joe Bergeron is in the backfield.
“Malcolm Brown played 22 plays but only had four touches,” head coach Mack Brown pointed out. “A lot of his plays were plays where David Ash checked out of a run into a pass because they were stacking the line of scrimmage when he was in there ... some guys touch it and some guys don’t depending on what’s happening on the line of scrimmage.”
Like Brown, Bergeron topped the 100-yard rushing mark in the Longhorns’ first game this year and deserves plenty of touches. Bergeron has led Texas in rushing in both of its games this season and has established himself as one of the team’s best tailbacks. Johnathan Gray gives the Longhorns another running back that was considered the best at his position coming out of high school and needs a steady dose of carries.
It also didn’t help that Texas was facing a team in New Mexico that ran a clock-chewing, triple-option style offense. The Longhorns ran just 26 first-half offensive plays, handing the ball off on just six of them. Coupled with the fact that an effort was made to let Ash throw more, there just weren’t many carries to go around. Bergeron had 11 carries while Gray had seven.
Of course, this is all assuming that Brown is healthy. There has been no official word on whether Brown is injured or not, but assume that he is hurt for a moment and put yourself in Mack Brown’s shoes. If you didn’t want to reveal your best running back’s injury, wouldn’t you play him enough to say that he was actually on the field more than any other tailback without actually giving him his usual number of touches?
If that’s the case, then Brown’s lack of carries becomes much more understandable. Otherwise, he needs to get on the field more — not as a decoy — and have the opportunity to make more of an impact.
Printed on Friday, September 14, 2012 as: BREAK LOOSE - Brown must receive more carries against Ole Miss