Upon his arrival to the Forty Acres in the late summer of 2011, Cibolo, Texas native Malcolm Brown had the weight of the world on his shoulders. With the departures of Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson, the Texas Longhorns were in desperate need of help at running back, and with Brown’s decision to play at Texas, fans of the program were already crowning him as the next Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson or even Earl Campbell.
This is high praise for someone who had yet to carry the football under the pressure which comes with the territory in Austin, and regardless of how well he may have played as a freshman, Brown wouldn’t live up to the hype. After rushing for 742 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman, his promise was evident, and it was a sure thing the 1,000 yard mark would be an easy target in 2012.
The injury gods had other ideas.
Brown sustained an ankle injury in the 1st half of the late-September win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys and saw limited action the remainder of the season, not returning until mid-November and carrying the ball only 21 times for 79 yards and a touchdown in three games to wrap up the season. It was an unfortunate development for a guy now firmly in the midst of a three-headed backfield. In fact, Brown is a secondary, if not third option in 2013 due to factors out of his direct control.
Shifty and elusive sophomore Johnathan Gray and the downhill bruiser Joe Bergeron will factor into the Longhorns running game along with Brown, whose role is much less clear. Gray will be the workhorse — at least according to most reports — with Bergeron seeing his fair share of carries as well in short-yardage and red-zone situations. This leaves Brown somewhere in-between, with markedly less opportunity than might have been there had he been able to play throughout 2012.
As it stands, the limited opportunity Brown will have in 2013 demands consistent production and the luck he stays healthy to boot. In a crowded backfield like that at Texas, injuries are so often the difference between a team leader and someone who fades into the background.
The former five-star recruit is but one big game or an unfortunate injury to one of his backfield mates, however, from again being the team’s featured back. The Texas running game will have a substantial, if different, role in the new up-tempo offense this fall, and Malcolm Brown will be as important as anyone to make sure his unit holds their end of the bargain.
Our bet is he’ll rise to the occasion and accept that role. There’s plenty of daylight left.
Kris was published in Lindy’s In the Huddle – Texas Longhorns Edition currently in stores.