Brown set for breakout, injury-free year

Chris Hummer

Texas’ backfield is made up of thunder (Joe Bergeron). lighting (Jonathan Gray) and Malcolm Brown, well, he’d be the tornado. Deadly when in form, but when hampered by a minor elemental change, tends to fall apart.

For Brown, that’s not wind speed or temperature, it’s almost a literal Achilles heel: a body prone to injuries. Expect that to change in 2013. Brown is primed for a breakout season and will finally shed the injury label that’s nagged him throughout his time at Texas.

Brown entered Texas as a consensus five-star recruit and ranked in the Top 10 nationally of many best of lists. He flashed that potential his freshman year, dashing for 635 and five touchdowns in his first
seven games.

At that point, Brown appeared as a force. His fellow freshman back Joe Bergeron was a mere afterthought. Brown was destined to be the next Longhorn in line for a legacy that includes Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.

Then the injuries started to creep in. A turf toe issue kept Brown out of the next two contests and hampered him the remainder of the season. Before the foot issue, Brown was on pace to break the Longhorns freshman rushing record. After it, he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.

Brown’s tale spun similar in 2012. Actually, the start of his season was odd. He rushed for 105 yards in Texas’ first game, then received only two carries in the next contest, before rushing for a team-best 128 yards against Ole Miss.

But his injury history caught up to him once again, and he missed the Longhorns’ next five games with a sprained ankle. At that point, freshman Johnathan Gray gained favor in the Texas backfield, and when Brown returned, the carries weren’t there.

Now, Brown enters 2013 as the forgotten man. Gray, a five-star recruit and high-school record-breaker himself, is the lead back on the depth chart, and head coach Mack Brown raves about his toughness.

Gray will have a successful season. He’s publicly stated his goal is to gain 1,500 yards, and will require a large bulk of the carries. However, Brown is healthy and poised for a 1,000-yard season himself. The 6-foot, 220-pound junior back spent the offseason working through targeted muscle strengthening drills, everything from stretches to even a little yoga, which he describes as his least favorite exercise, by far.

Fact is, he’s feeling healthy and if Brown stays that way, he’ll be effective.

The Longhorns new up-tempo offense will create an additional 12-15 snaps a game, meaning each back will get numerous chances to shine. Texas’ top trio of backs will have a set rotation, and will each see the field with consistency.

That’s all Brown will need. He’s the most complete back on the roster; big enough to plunge through the middle of the line, fast enough to sweep to the outside and shifty enough to make people miss in the open field. It’s a potent combination, and something that will force offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to give him
the ball.

Bothersome feet held Brown back his first two seasons, but expect the same limbs to carry him to greatness this go-around. 

After all, without their feet, how can anyone expect to move forward?