With senior Malcolm Brown graduating and junior Johnathan Gray possibly, although unlikely, leaving early for the NFL draft, Texas is going to be looking for their next stable of running backs to lead the balanced running attack that head coach Charlie Strong wants. The 2015 recruiting class has three backs 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 5’10” 203-pound speedster from North Shore High School in Houston. 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 1500 yards as a junior, netting him around 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. He figures to factor in as a more Johnathan Gray-type back, able to run past defenders if he gets a step but not the guy you want in with two yards to go on third down.
Kirk Johnson only had one college offer when he ended his junior year at Valley Christian in San Jose, California. That one was from Texas. The 6-foot-one 200-pound bruiser battled injuries his junior year, leading him to poor showings at a Nike event last summer and unimpressive highlight tapes. His father, Longhorn Johnnie Johnson, said he was only ever at 60 percent last season, causing him to miss a few games and make a few colleges back off their recruitment. Assuming the younger Johnson can heal enough to play like his sophomore tape suggests he can, however, Texas could be glad other schools backed out. He has the potential to combine his sub 4.5 speed and strong legs into a dangerous back, with the ability run past and through defenders.
Jordan Stevenson out of football powerhouse South Oak Cliff in Dallas is a smaller back than the previous two. At only 5-foot-eight 185 pounds, Stevenson will have to rely on his speed to be successful out of the backfield. Good thing he ran a 4.37 40 at the Dallas NFTC event in 2013, which matches most elite high school track stars. Though he’s not going to be able to translate 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 utilizing his speed, running laterally as little as possible because he knows how shifty he is, and how hard he can be to catch.
Out of the three RB commits Texas has already acquired, I’d put my bets on Jordan Stevenson 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. I’d be surprised if Texas was able to pull anymore backs into this class, but don’t ever count out backs coach Tommie Robinson’s recruiting savvy.