Though most of the hype surrounding the Longhorns’ offense is focused on junior quarterback David Ash, the most promising aspect of the 2013 team is likely to be its trifecta of running backs.
Juniors Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron and sophomore Johnathan Gray come together to create a stable team of running backs poised to propel Texas’ offense. Head coach Mack Brown emphasized the importance of a prominent running game and said he plans to employ a consistent and effective backfield each week to remain balanced offensively.
“My goal, personally, for the offense, was to be able to line up the offense and run it against anybody,” Brown said. “You’ve got to be good enough at running it too, when maybe your quarterback is having a bad day, and he’s off or the weather is bad. You can run it every week, and we didn’t do that last year. That’s got to be something that we have to be able to do this year.”
Gray earned the starting nod for the season opener against New Mexico State. The sophomore running back led the team with 701 rushing yards on 149 carries as a freshman in 2012. He is the most explosive member of the Texas backfield and boasts an elusiveness and an ability to find holes in the opponent’s defense.
Bergeron, a 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound bruiser, expects to receive the majority of the Longhorns’ goal-line snaps. The junior led Texas with 16 touchdowns last season, and has scored 21 times on the ground in his career.
The player with the most to prove and gain is Brown. The junior running back missed nine games because of injury in his first two seasons, including six games in 2012, which limited him to just 324 rushing yards on 61 carries and four touchdowns. Now, Brown hopes to remain healthy by taking steps to change his eating habits and to do more focused muscle training.
Despite Brown’s brush with injuries, co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite is impressed by his focus and devotion to return to the field.
“He’s still maintained his passion and hunger for the game of football,” Applewhite said. “It’d be easy with a sprained ankle and Johnathan taking over as a freshman to just come back and be not all into it. He’s still got a passion for football. He’s [worked] his tail off. He’s had some unfortunate breaks with injuries; it’s just part of football. He’s tough and he’s going to fight through it, and he’s going to play.”
Brown is eager to get back in the lineup on Saturday. He believes in the potential of the Longhorn rushing unit and feels there will be enough carries to go around.
“It can be very good,” Brown said. “We do have some good backs in the running back room. I believe just whoever is in the game is really not losing a step. Just continuing with effort and hard work, we can do a lot of great things in the backfield.“