- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
AUSTIN, Texas - Do the math and you’ll understand the dilemma Texas faces when it comes to recruiting 2013 running backs.
It is, of course, a good dilemma to have. The Longhorns have an impressive collection of young rushers and only so many handoffs to hand out.
Rarely does a program have the luxury of signing arguably the best running back recruit in the country in back-to-back years. Add in three experienced backups and it’s easy to see why Texas might have the best stable of rushers in the country in 2012.
Five-stars Malcolm Brown and incoming UT commit Johnathan Gray form as hyped a duo as you’ll find. Power back Joe Bergeron proved, as a true freshman, he’s a potent option, too. Combine them with the speedy D.J. Monroe and junior Jeremy Hills. Lot of options, right?
Not if you’re one of the state’s top junior running backs. Every recruit looks at the depth chart of the schools he’s interested in. Those who look at the loaded Longhorns backfield likely won’t see a chance to become a star anytime soon.
Then again, the fact Texas will naturally develop into a run-oriented offense over the next few years to accommodate its considerable rushing talents does play a factor. So does the fact that no matter how much depth UT stockpiles, it can’t assume the depth will be there by the end of the season.
Look at 2011: Brown missed three games and Bergerson sat out two, and when those injuries converged with Fozzy Whittaker’s season-ending knee injury at Missouri, an impotent Texas offense was left with Hills and Monroe and rushed for only 76 yards in a 17-5 loss.
Hills and Monroe will both be seniors this fall. That creates an impetus for Texas coaches to take two running backs for their 2013 class, but it also means they’ll have to make some difficult decisions about who to pursue. And that hasn’t gone too well for Texas in the past few years prior to Brown’s arrival.
Remember, Texas took Tre’ Newton over Cyrus Gray and LaMichael James in 2008, Whittaker and Cody Johnson, but not Kendall Hunter in 2007 and Vondrell McGee over Mike Goodson in 2006. Evaluating and signing the state’s best rushers isn’t easy, but UT can’t continue to miss out on NFL-caliber backs.
Here’s a look at three of Texas’ best in-state options for 2013:
• Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Ranch): An elusive 5-foot-11, 195-pound back who’s had as productive a career as any junior rusher in the state. Ford has totaled for more than 2,200 yards with a combined 22 touchdown runs in the past two seasons for Cy Ranch. He has offers from Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Baylor and several other programs and is already a major target for Longhorns coaches.
• Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto): Wilson will get the chance to prove he’s an every-down back as a senior, but he’s got all the traits of a terrific rusher. He ran for more than 700 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior and added five receiving scores. He’s a 5-foot-10, 160-pound home-run threat who brings speed and versatility to the position.
• James White (Pearland, Texas/Dawson): Texas offensive line commit Kennedy Estelle helped pave the way for White’s impressive junior season. He ran for more than 1,700 yards and 23 touchdowns to lead Dawson to the 4A Division I semifinals. White is similar in size to Ford and a shifty runner in open field.