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Insider

Running backs learning to share

11/10/2011

AUSTIN, Texas --The spotlight is getting crowded at Texas.

First Fozzy Whittaker had to make room for Malcolm Brown. Now both running backs have to inch over to fit in Joe Bergeron. Strike that, Bergeron is 235 pounds, they need to do more than inch.

But regardless of how they do it, making room for Bergeron has to be done. The freshman -- after back-to-back 100-yard rushing games -- has proven he deserves some time in the backfield.

Now Texas just has to figure out how much time and when he gets it.

“It’s just that you only have so many snaps each week,” Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “So you really have to look at your script carefully. Make sure each guy has looks, or if this guy hasn’t seen it yet. You’ve got to balance out your script. Make sure the kids are getting the looks they need to see.”

There have been plenty of looks the past two weeks against Kansas and Texas Tech, primarily because Texas has rushed the ball 72 and 54 times in those games. But that trend is not likely to continue as better defenses start to load the box even more to stop the run. So Texas has to utilize Bergeron, Brown or Whittaker in exactly the right spots that best suits their talents.

For Whittaker, the answer is easier than it is for the two freshmen. The senior has been dynamic in the Wild formation, inside the 20, and on kickoff returns. He has taken the direct snap from center on nearly 40 percent of his carries and averaged a run of 10-plus yards on 25 percent of those touches.

As for Bergeron and Brown, things get a little more complicated. Bergeron is more of an inside runner. But the difference is not substantial as Brown has gained 64 percent of his yards between the tackles. Both also can shed tacklers and have solid yards after contact numbers.

Brown is faster to the corner and to the outside. But Bergeron has plenty of get up and go.

For Texas, it is going to be about protecting Brown’s injured toe as well as understanding when one of the running backs is on a hot streak.

“We just look at it throughout the course of the game, as the game’s flowing on if we feel like a guy is getting spent,” Applewhite said. “Or he comes to us and says, ‘Hey, I’m tired. I don’t feel good. Can another guy give me a break?’ We use that as a way to naturally break up the reps and the carries.”

As for breaking up any squabbles between the backs that may erupt due to playing time or lack thereof, Applewhite said he is not too worried.

“It is a blessing to have guys that aren’t selfish,” he said. “They want to get better and hone their own skills.

“It’s a long season and some guys are going to get nicked. All that kind of stuff here and there. So some guy has got to be ready to roll. They’re also excited that we’re running the football a whole bunch right now. They’re just ecstatic about that.”