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Spring position review: Running backs

2/17/2012

Mack Brown and Texas want balance when it comes to the offense.

Since that is the case, Texas needs to start working on its quarterback situation because the running game is doing more than its share.

When healthy, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron proved to be Texas’ best one-two combination at running back since Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young in 2006. That pair rushed for 1,422 yards on 293 carries. Brown and Bergeron rushed for 1,205 yards on 244 carries.

Injuries were the issue for Brown and Bergeron. They were only healthy for eight games. Bergeron was only really used in two of those games. But the healing is over and both backs appear ready to compete.

That should help Texas get more cohesion between the backs and the offensive line.

What Texas has …

What Texas might have is a problem. Bergeron has emerged as a possible contender for the No. 1 spot. Brown is still very good and cannot be kept off the field. And Johnathan Gray, the national player of year, is headed to Austin. But Gray won’t be at Texas until June at the earliest.

That means the Longhorns have time to figure out what they want to do with Brown and Bergeron this spring before he arrives.

Neither has proven to be a good pass catcher out of the backfield or all that quick to the edge. So it is doubtful Texas will use either in the Wild package.

Instead these backs are more suited for the between the tackle yards that are so crucial to setting up the play-action pass. Don’t look for Texas to give them too much work in the spring because of the fear of injury.

Because of that, Jeremy Hills could see some extended action.

What Texas needs …

Someone, anyone, to successfully run the Wild formation. Of course, that person might not be in uniform yet.

“[Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin] will have to play with it this spring and look at it,” Mack Brown said. “That's a wide-open one. But that formation was really important to us. And we will obviously look closely at that.”

Texas can take a magnifying glass to it but it is not likely to find someone as adept as Fozzy Whittaker was when it comes to directing the formation. And it most certainly won’t find that person already on campus.

Texas tried it last season in practice with Mykkele Thompson, Miles Onyegbule, Jaxon Shipley and D.J. Monroe. None of them proved to be better than Whittaker. Now, aside from Monroe, all are desperately needed at their current position for depth purposes.

So Monroe is the most likely candidate and will get the longest look. But the coaching staff is already speculating about what the new signees could do in the wild formation.

“People have said could Daje Johnson do that?” Brown said. “Could Johnathan Gray do that? Marcus Johnson was a "Wild" guy in high school. So which one of those guys do you look at? Can you look at both quarterbacks to do that? Can you look at Jalen Overstreet to do it?”

Texas will not find out the answers to those questions until the fall.

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