The Texas Longhorns have been churning out crazy-good running backs for many, many moons. Currently the ‘Horns have a stable of RBs that should be considered the most talented and most dangerous group in college football.
In 2012 Joe Bergeron had the second most rushing yards on the team with 567, but his 16 rushing TDs were quadruple that of any other player for Texas. At 6’1”, 230 pounds Joe B, as he is known by the Longhorn faithful, is a powerhouse running back that blows through tackles like it is going out of style. He isn’t blazing fast but makes up for it with his vision, finding weak spots in the defense to go plowing through. His ability to catch passes out of the backfield is also solid, as evident from the fact that he averaged 9.3 yards per catch last season.
Bergeron split time with fellow junior Malcolm Brown in 2011. Bergeron was relatively under the radar until injuries to Brown, who was advertised as the next great Texas running back before he even suited up for a game, forced him into the spot light. He delivered in a big way that year with his best showings coming in back-to-back 130+ yard rushing performances against the Kansas Jayhawks, a game in which he averaged 10.5 yards per carry, and the Texas Tech Red Raiders, when he came nine yards shy of the 200 yard mark.
At the end of the 2011 season Texas fans felt good about the future of their run game. It looked like the team had two solid backs that could combine for big yardage in Brown and Bergeron, and if one went down the other could easily hold down the fort. Enter Johnathan Gray.
(TEXAS LONGHORNS: Major Applewhite should be the Longhorns’ next head coach when Mack Brown steps aside.)
Gray is hands down the most complete back Texas has on its roster. Brown, who will kind of be the odd man out in 2013, and Bergeron both bring power but don’t really have break-away speed. Sophomore Daje Johnson is a speedster and will most often be used on reverses and in a role similar to the one formerly filled by UT studs like DJ Monroe and Marquise Goodwin. Gray is the total package: power, speed, vision, hands…you name it he has it. If given the right number of carries Gray will do what former legendary Texas RBs Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams did during their time in burnt orange: win a Heisman Trophy. Gray will be the feature back for Texas, but where does that leave Bergeron?
It leaves him right where he left off in 2012. Bergeron will be the short-yardage/third down back but his impact won’t be as limited as most players who fill that role. Expect to see Joe B a lot when the ‘Horns are in the red zone, need to pick up some key yardage, or just want to switch things up on the defense and bring in some fresh legs. He should produce similar stats to the ones we saw in 2012 with his TD total ending up vastly more impressive than his yardage total. Bergeron will still have a big part in the Texas offense, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see his number of touches go down as Gray begins to mature into his role as the number one guy.
Bergeron will be a junior this season and with him sharing carries he won’t make enough noise to go pro early, meaning Texas has two more seasons to use Bergeron as the change-up to Gray behind QB David Ash. Having a bevy of RBs that he knows he can count on behind him will help keep Ash calm and limit his mistakes. Joe B is a big reason why Texas is sitting so pretty at the RB position and why they should be able to wear down defenses and close games by grinding it out for the win in 2013.