Texas has running back questions to answer before season opener

Daniela Perez

With the season opener just a week away, Texas has lost another running back to injury. A UT spokesperson announced Friday that running back Daniel Young will not be sidelined “for several weeks” following a “significant” high ankle sprain. His injury comes two weeks after fellow running back Keaontay Ingram tweaked his knee and nearly three weeks after the announcement of senior Kirk Johnson’s shoulder injury. Even with Ingram’s return, Young’s injury leaves half of Texas’ scholarship backs on the training table instead of on the field for the foreseeable future.

Before the injury, Young made headlines a week prior when asked about why he didn’t transfer after seeing limited playing time last year.

“I decided to stay at Texas because Texas has a lot to offer,” Young said. “It’s all about the grind. You just have to put your head down and work.”

With the departures of Tre Watson to graduation and the transfers of Toneil Carter and Kyle Porter along with preseason injuries piling up, Young was poised to have several opportunities to show his offseason work. Now that Young is hurt, Texas has its eyes set on Jordan Whittington and Ingram to handle responsibilites in the backfield.

Whittington, a true freshman, has already proved himself as a viable answer to running backs coach Stan Drayton in the offseason despite having yet to take a college snap in his career.

“(Whittington) has shown me enough on the practice field, but he hasn’t been on this stage yet, so you don’t know what the response is going to be under the lights,” Drayton said. “That goes the same for most of those guys. Keaontay does bring some experience, he’s been on the stage, he’s not going to flinch out there.”

Ingram’s experience comes in the form of 708 yards across 13 games in 2018. His counterpart, Whittington, was an all-purpose player in high school and only officially became a running back after he stepped on campus.

Regardless, Drayton and his players are excited for his debut.

“He has some character, he has some spunk,” Young said. “I really like him. He’s going to bring a lot to this team.”

The loss of Young combined with Whittington’s youth leave holes and unanswered questions for Texas’ offense. Drayton expressed confidence in Whittington and Ingram, though he later said, “You need at least three guys ready to play. At least three, every game.”

With Young’s injury, the name of that third and final back for week one now comes into question.

Ingram’s injury after Texas’ first scrimmage on Aug. 11 left Texas in the same situation it currently finds itself in.

At the time, Herman said they would look to walk-ons before looking to move players from other positions to the backfield.

“Obviously, the guy that we talk about is Jake Smith,” Herman said on Aug. 11. “It wouldn’t be fair for his development at ‘H’ (receiver) just to move him to third-team tailback. We’ve got a couple of walk-on guys that are doing a really good job… If this is something that carries into the season then we certainly have to figure something out. You’re not going to survive with two scholarship tailbacks.”

Now, the Longhorns are in an identical situation as they look for their third guy with the season opener less than a week away.