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UT's backfield could be interesting in 2012

12/23/2011

AUSTIN, Texas -- Joe Bergeron goes about 230 and could add 15-20 more pounds without a problem.

He is a punishing runner. He relishes the opportunity to go between the tackles. He knows how to pick up blocks in both the run and the passing game. And he is thought to be the odd man out in what will be a backfield full of talent in 2012. So the reasonable conclusion among many has been that Bergeron will be moved to fullback, a position where Texas lost Cody Johnson and Jamison Berryhill.

That would be the wrong conclusion, according to Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.

“Could he do it? Yes,” Harsin said. “That is the thing. All those guys, the running backs that we have, are all a good size that could do those types of things we want at the fullback. That might be something that you can mix those guys up with that personnel group, but no. The way Joe has played and what he has done at tailback … It is what we have asked [the backs] to do, and it has been very effective for us when those guys are all healthy. That is a position he is going to continue to develop.”

Then just how in the world are three backs, all who are used to getting as many carries as they want, going to peacefully coexist?

“You will have one of those guys in there, just looking at the future, you will probably have a guy in there that will be a situational guy,” Harsin said. “You will have some things to design just for him. If the other two or three guys are healthy, then they are rolling through so they can get into a rhythm.”

That situational player could be incoming freshman Johnathan Gray.

Brown and Bergeron have already proven they can be the main backs in the system. Gray, who arrives as the Gatorade National Player of the Year, could possibly take on the roll that Fozzy Whittaker had in 2011. Whittaker was the main component of the “Wild” package and was also a threat inside the red zone.

Whittker, however, was a senior and understood his role. Whether or not a young player is willing to accept a reduced role will be interesting to watch.

What Harsin might be able to do in order to get Gray or the situational back more involved is utilize more screen passes out of the backfield. Whittaker caught 16 passes. Brown had three. Bergeron did not catch a pass.

In all Whittaker had 82 touches on offense. Brown had 162. Bergeron had 69. But many of those numbers were less than they would have been because of injuries. Take away the 43 carries for Cody Johnson and the 35 from Jeremy Hills and Harsin has an additional 88 rushes to distribute among Brown, Bergeron and Gray. Plus, it is assumed Texas will have more sustained drives in 2012 and that could lead to more opportunities for each of the running backs as well.