Longhorn running backs ready for big season


Elisabeth Dillon

Running backs Joe Bergeron, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown form Texas' main trio of running backs and each should see an increased workload with the team's shift to an up-tempo offense.

Peter Sblendorio

Though most of the hype surrounding the Longhorns' offense is centered on junior quarterback David Ash, the most promising aspect of the 2013 team is likely to be its trifecta of running backs.

Juniors Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron and sophomore Johnathan Gray create a stable of backs poised to propel the Texas offense. Head coach Mack Brown said he hopes to employ a consistent and effective backfield each week to maintain a balance on offense.

“My goal personally, for the offense, was to be able to line up the offense and run it against anybody,” Brown said. “You’ve got to be good enough at running it too, when maybe your quarterback is having a bad day and he’s off or the weather is bad. You can run it every week, and we didn’t do that last year. That’s got to be something that we have to be able to do this year."

Gray earned the starting nod for the season opener Saturday against New Mexico State. The sophomore tailback led the team with 701 rushing yards on 149 carries as a freshman in 2012. Gray's shifty footwork and ability to find gaps means he will likely see the field on third-and-short situations.

Bergeron, a 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound bruiser, will likely receive the majority of the Longhorns’ goal line snaps. The junior led Texas with 16 touchdowns last season, and he has scored 21 times on the ground in his career.

The player with the most to prove and gain is Brown. The junior missed eight games because of injury in his first two seasons, including five games last year, which limited him to just 324 rushing yards on 61 carries with four touchdowns. Brown has taken steps to remain healthy by changing his eating habits and doing more focused muscle training.  

Despite Brown's injuries, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite is impressed by Brown’s focus and determination to return to the field.

“He’s still maintained his passion and hunger for the game of football,” Applewhite said. “It’d be easy with a sprained ankle and Johnathan taking over as a freshman to just come back and be not all in to it. He’s still got a passion for football. He works his tail off. He’s had some unfortunate breaks with injuries; it’s just part of football. He’s tough and he’s going to fight through it and he’s going to play.”

Brown is eager to get back in the lineup on Saturday. He believes in the potential of the Longhorn rushing unit and feels there will be enough carries to go around.

“It can be very good,” Brown said.  “We do have some good backs in the running back room.  I believe just whoever is in the game is really not losing a step.  Just continuing with effort and hard work, we can do a lot of great things in the backfield.“