Major Applewhite has a lot of options on offense.
With a group of returning running backs that led the Texas offense last season, and a true freshman who scored 205 touchdowns during his high school career, Applewhite, the co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach, is feeling pretty confident with his backfield.
Malcolm Brown led the team in rushing with 742 yards as a true freshman. He is back and looks to improve on his breakout season with fellow sophomore Joe Bergeron. The two combined for 1,205 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011.
More good news: there’s a new kid on campus with just as much potential.
Johnathan Gray was the No. 1-ranked running back recruit in the nation coming out of Aledo High School. According to his teammates, he has lived up to expectations thus far.
“He has been really impressive,” Bergeron said. “It is easy to get caught up and fall behind everyone else, but he has picked it up pretty good. I see a lot of potential in him.”
Because Gray will have to share playing time with Bergeron and Brown, his freshman year may not be as outstanding as it could be. These three, along with senior Jeremy Hills, make up one of the best backfields in the country.
“You don’t really see a lot of backfields with not just three, but actually four when you include Jeremy, with four good running backs that can actually tote the ball like that,” Bergeron said.
The starter for the team’s opener against Wyoming is fluid, as Brown and Bergeron share the top spot at the depth chart.
“There’s not really a set starter,” Brown said. “It’s kind of more of a rotation kind of thing. You can put in any of us. It just depends on what the play is who technically starts of the game.”
The running backs struggled mightily with injuries last season. Bergeron, Brown and then-senior Fozzy Whittaker were all injured at the same time. Because of this, Hills played more than he had in his previous seasons at Texas and registered 36 carries for 177 yards.
Despite these injuries, the Longhorns were 22nd in the country in rushing yards per game last season.
Should they stay healthy, the foursome has the opportunity to become one of the best ever at Texas.
“With Malcolm, he brings a mix of power and speed, as well as Johnathan, Jeremy and I,” Bergeron said. “With four backs like that it’s going to be extremely difficult to try and plan for it. Because you don’t know which one of us is going to be in the game at which time.”
Even though they all want to be the one on the field, Brown said the backs are always cheering each other on.
“I like to watch them play,” Brown said. “If they break a long run or get a touchdown I’m the first one down there to give them a high five.”