The history of Texas football is littered with legendary players in the backfield. Names like Campbell, Williams, Benson and Charles fill the record books. But one of the current carriers of the rock is sophomore Keaontay Ingram.
Ingram entered 2019 as Texas’ starting running back, returning from offseason training 15 pounds heavier and feeling faster despite the extra weight. Ingram had struggled through injuries in 2018, and an early knee injury in August was not a good sign. Despite the new injury, Ingram was expected to be ready for Week 1.
Ingram’s 2019 campaign was similar to his previous year, with nearly identical rush attempts and receptions. However, he finished with more yards and touchdowns. Ingram’s 5.9 yards per carry were the fourth highest in the Big 12 among backs with at least 100 carries. He also tied senior receiver Devin Duvernay for the second-most touchdowns on the team with 10. What likely made the coaches happiest was that Ingram finished the year without losing a fumble.
But 2019 wasn’t all roses. Ingram suffered a neck injury throwing a block against West Virginia in Week 5. He returned the next game but suffered an ankle injury later in the season against Baylor. Yet again, his durability was questioned. But even with the injuries, Ingram appeared in every game.
There were questions about whether Ingram should hold onto his position as the starting running back after he struggled against LSU in Week 2. He dropped a would-be wide open touchdown pass early in the game and fumbled later. On the flip side, freshman Roschon Johnson, a backup quarterback who moved to running back out of necessity, had one of his strongest games of the season. Head coach Tom Herman made Ingram’s role clear after the game.
“(Ingram’s) our guy,” Herman said. “I don’t think he should lose any confidence in that. He’ll bounce back.”
And bounce back he did. Two games later against Oklahoma State, Ingram ran for his second career 100-yard game. He finished the year with four such games after only having one his freshman season.
One of Ingram’s best qualities as a runner is his balance. He has a special ability to stay upright when maneuvering around defenders, allowing him to keep his momentum and quickly change direction again. Ingram was even harder to knock off balance this year thanks to his added muscle. One example of this was on a pass play against Oklahoma State. Ingram turned what was supposed to be a modest five-yard gain into nearly 30 yards. After he jumped to catch the ball, he kept his footing and juked a defender to immediately gain more yards. A quick spin move and two broken tackles later, Texas was in the red zone.
His balance comes into play even more on what could be dubbed as the “Ingram Cut.” In just one step, he can change his momentum in the opposite direction. On a touchdown run against Kansas State, Ingram juked hard to the left with defenders draped all over him. When a fourth defender hurried to beat him to the outside, Ingram cut back in and went untouched to the end zone.
For the most part, Ingram was excellent as a receiver, too. He finished third in the conference among running backs in catches and receiving yards. While he had the brutal drop against LSU, Ingram had his redemption against Iowa State. With a defender in tow, Ingram spun around to catch the ball just like against LSU, but this time he hung on and immediately turned upfield for a touchdown.
Overall, Ingram’s 2019 was a stepping stone in his Texas career. He improved his game across the board, but injuries kept him from reaching his full potential. If he’s healthy in 2020, Ingram could be in for an even bigger leap in his junior season.