- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 24 Joe Bergeron
Senior running back
Recruitment rewind: Bergeron was relatively low-key with his recruitment -- Texas was the early leader, he committed at a 2010 junior day and that was that. A three-star prospect from North Mesquite (Texas) High School was initially seen as a future H-back for Texas as a 225-pound thumper, and ESPN scouts ranked him as their No. 1 fullback prospect. He rushed for 2,724 yards and 30 TDs in high school and was confident he could stay at running back at the college level.
Career so far: Bergeron rushed for nearly 500 yards as a true freshman, then broke out as one of the Big 12's best short-yardage power backs with 16 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore. He had a more inconsistent role as a junior behind Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, picking up 362 yards and four scores in 2013. Bergeron's 1,392 rushing yards rank fourth-most among returning Big 12 backs.
Best-case scenario for 2014: The short-yardage and goal-line king Texas had in 2012. He carried the ball 47 times in the red zone that season and scored on a third of those tries. The new staff needs to learn to trust him in those situations, and he should get a good workload early in the season if Texas coaches ease Gray back into the rotation as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles. Bergeron has to solve the issue he had last year with holding on to the ball, but it's easy to forget that Bergeron is deceptively quick in the open field and is no fun to tackle. Bergeron likely won't have to be the featured back; he just needs to be the power rusher who does the dirty work when called upon.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Bergeron has been in the doghouse before. He wound up back there this spring when he was suspended for two weeks of spring ball and the Orange-White game, reportedly because of academics. Charlie Strong has made it clear Bergeron will rejoin the team, but what will he do with this second chance? If Bergeron clashes with his coaches this fall, he'll be wasting a big opportunity to help this team and this offense.
Future expectations: If Bergeron can re-establish himself as one of college football's more prolific power backs, he's going to get a look from the NFL. The fact he really hasn't played fullback at Texas might limit his options to some extent, but if the Shawn Watson-Joe Wickline offense can put Bergeron in situations where he can catch the ball and even do a little lead blocking, that would make him an even more compelling and versatile prospect for the next level.