- Max Olson, Big 12 reporter
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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. 28 Malcolm Brown
Senior running back
Recruitment rewind: A five-star recruit out of Cibolo (Texas) Steele High School, Brown was the No. 1 recruit in the state in 2011 and No. 7 in the ESPN 150. He eventually chose the Longhorns over Alabama right before the start of his senior season. He led Steele to a state title as a senior, rushing for 2,637 yards and 33 TDs to earn consensus All-America honors. Crazy sidenote: Of the top 10 backs in his recruiting class, Brown is one of only three who hasn't transferred.
Career so far: Brown has been an impact player from Day One. He ran for 742 yards and earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors as a true freshman while splitting carries with Fozzy Whittaker and Joe Bergeron. He also has been somewhat of an injury-prone back since the beginning. An ankle injury cost him five games as a sophomore, and he finished third on the team in rushing.
After a slow start to 2013, Brown got healthy and stepped up when Texas badly needed him after losing Johnathan Gray. Brown led the Longhorns with 904 yards on the ground (1,099 all-purpose) and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection despite being credited with just four starts. Entering his final year, Brown leads all returning Big 12 players with 1,970 career rushing yards.
Best-case scenario for 2014: An All-Big 12 season that reminds everybody why Brown was once considered one of the nation's best young running backs. He put up consecutive 125-plus-yard games against Texas Tech, Baylor and Oregon to close out his junior campaign and averaged 112.8 rushing yards per game in the seven games he carried 20-plus times. With Texas' QB situation, Gray's injury and Bergeron's spring suspension, all signs point to Brown being the workhorse of this offense when the season begins.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Injuries. Until Brown's re-emergence with a stunning 120-yard game against Oklahoma last year, he'd been either injured or a non-factor in 16 of Texas' previous 24 games. Brown produced a total of 43 rushing yards in those 16 games. Texas needs the Malcolm Brown who showed up for the second half of 2013.
Future expectations: Brown is going to get a look at the next level if he does have that statement-making senior season. But with how running backs are drafted these days, there's no telling what to expect when it comes to his NFL stock. Brown has ideal size for the pro level, solid speed (maybe mid-4.5s in the 40) and all the tools to be a potent inside-outside rusher. He didn't make Mel Kiper's initial list of the top senior RB prospects, but that's because Brown still has plenty to prove.
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.