Malcolm Brown is ready to step up in more ways than one

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Malcolm Brown is back for his sophomore season after leading the Longhorns in rushing as a freshman last year.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Last season Malcolm Brown stepped onto campus as a pupil under veteran running back Fozzy Whittaker.

After Whittaker’s season-ending injury during Texas’ loss to Missouri, Brown and the rest of the running backs were forced to take over earlier than expected.

Now that Whittaker has graduated, it’s their turn to completely take the reins — both in terms of leadership and on-field performance.

“We had Fozzy Whittaker last year, and as an older guy he knew everything that we needed to know for us,” Brown said. “With him gone now, me and the other running backs need to step up and take over that role.”

Brown prefers to lead by example and does not consider himself a very talkative person.

Especially with freshman running back Johnathan Gray entering the mix, the running backs have the opportunity to become even more dominant. Gray, from Aledo, Texas, rushed for 3,886 yards and 65 touchdowns his senior season at Aledo High.

Just like Whittaker helped both Brown and Joe Bergeron, it’s their turn to help out the freshmen.

In recent years, the Longhorns have relied on passing more than running. But the Longhorns do not have Vince Young or Colt McCoy now.

What they do have is an offense that has struggled with the passing game. Head coach Mack Brown hopes to make the offense more balanced. But until that happens, Malcolm Brown will be there.

“I just contribute in any type of way I can,” Brown said. “Coach Mack Brown can throw me into any type of situation, and I will do what I can.”

Last season the team had an average of 202.6 rushing yards per game and 189.9 passing yards. Now that Brown is a sophomore, his role will continue to grow. Quarterback David Ash said the running backs’ experience from last year will help the offense.

“Experience, there’s no substitute for it,” Ash said.

Brown missed both the Missouri and Texas Tech games with a turf toe injury last season. But according to Bergeron, Brown has been working hard to avoid injuries.

“With him knowing how to take care of his body now, you see him doing a lot of stuff that he’s doing now that he didn’t do last year,” Bergeron said. “We cold tub more. We’re in the training room more. We’re hitting the weights a lot harder than we did last year.”

Brown was the first true freshman since Cedric Benson in 2001 to lead the team in rushing, with 742 yards. But he still sees room for improvement in himself, especially in pass protection.

“That is one thing that I wanted to focus on,” Brown said. “We all want to be complete backs and stay in on third downs when the blitzes are coming and we’re passing the ball.”

Picking up blitzes was one thing Whittaker was so good at.

“That is one thing that Fozzy brought to the table,” Brown said. “He was the older guy, he knew the protections, and he had been here for so long that he knew exactly what to do.”

Brown currently shares the top of the depth chart with Bergeron. Both players had five rushing touchdowns last season.

“Both guys, just from a year of experience, you can see how those guys have come back and understand the offensive line and understand the run game and understand we are trying to hit with the run,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “And so I’ve been pleased with both guys. I think they have been tremendous through camp. The other area, not just running the ball, but in protection, as well.”

With the words of Whittaker in his mind, Malcolm Brown is ready to continue his impressive career at Texas. If this season’s offense is similar to last season’s, he’ll need to.