One of the positions to watch at the Texas Longhorns spring game was the well-stocked running back position. There was an interest in seeing if one of the four, crazy-good RBs had made strides towards breaking away from the pack and if each player would be utilized properly. The most glaring thing I noticed though was what we didn’t see, and we didn’t see much of Malcolm Brown.
When he was first recruited by the Longhorns, Brown was highly lauded as the next great Texas running back. However, due to untimely injuries the Cibolo, TX native has missed out on large portions of his first two season with the Longhorns and thus has not lived up to expectations. What is worse yet for Brown is the fact that those injuries opened the door for his competition to get noticed, and the competition is tough.
Joe Bergeron has emerged as what can essentially be summed up as a better version of Brown. Both running backs stand around six feet tall and weigh in between 225 and 230 pounds, and both have some power and a bit of speed but don’t really have the ability to break away with speed alone. Also, both will be juniors in 2013. Bergeron has been able to avoid getting hurt though, and that has allowed him to progress faster than Brown, which is why he saw considerably more action than Brown in the spring game. I’d expect that trend to continue once the season arrives.
Bergeron and Brown would make a great one-two combo, but the thing is that there are more than just two good RBs at Texas. Johnathan Gray made noise during his freshman season in 2012 and continued to be the main attraction in the backfield at the Orange-White scrimmage. Gray is hands-down the most complete back that Texas has. He has better speed and power than either of the juniors, and his hands make him a great target out of the backfield in the passing game. Given the right amount of touches, Gray has the potential to win a Heisman before his time at Texas is done.
The fourth Texas RB, Daje Johnson, will be taking on a role similar to the one that DJ Monroe or Marquise Goodwin filled for the Longhorns rather than that of a traditional RB. Johnson is lightning fast, but lacks the power to consistently run up the middle or break tackles and get to the outside. During the spring game Texas head coach Mack Brown skillfully utilized Johnson the way he needs to be used; in the return game, and as an X-back in the receiving game. Look for Johnson to be Texas’ return man in 2013 as well as to be the guy to take the handoff on those reverses that Texas loves to run.
With Gray’s stock rising and Bergeron playing consistently well, there really isn’t much of a role for Brown to fill given his talents, considerable though they may be. I still think there is an outside option that Brown will transfer prior to the 2013 season beginning and head to a program where he could be the featured back. It all depends on if he is satisfied with getting maybe a fourth of the touches at Texas, or if he would rather play elsewhere and try to boost his future NFL draft stock.
Having too many good running backs is the kind of problem that you want to have as a college football program, and when I look at the stable of RBs that Texas has assembled I see a unit that is without a doubt the best in the Big 12, maybe even the best in the country.
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