Texas Football: A Look at the Longhorns' Running Backs

Jonathan Woo@woo_jonathanwooCorrespondent IAugust 30, 2012

Texas Football: A Look at the Longhorns' Running Backs

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    The Texas Longhorns will run the ball, if nothing else this season.

    As much as Mack Brown and his staff say they are seeking balance in their offense, which is undeniably true, everyone knows the bread-and-butter of the offense today is the running game.

    In a look into what the Texas ground game boasts, we will dive into short profiles for each tailback.

    Incumbents Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron look to take the brunt of the load, but there are plenty of touches and carries for a committee of seniors, D.J. Monroe and Jeremy Hills, and freshmen talents, Johnathan Gray and Daje Johnson.

    With every back bringing different qualities to the table, the Longhorns are in a position to approach the running game with diversity, balance and freshness.

Joe Bergeron

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    Height: 6'1"
    Weight: 230 lbs
    2011 Stats: 72 ATT, 463 YDS, 5 TD
    Class: Sophomore
    Best Attribute: Power

    With Joe Bergeron being the player that comes before the "OR" on Texas' depth chart, there are signs that he will get the first touches against Wyoming. Nevertheless, it is a fluid situation in the Longhorns' backfield.

    Bergeron runs with the most power of the running backs, but with the above-average speed he carries, he poses a legitimate threat to rip a long run once at the second level.

    Listed as the biggest running back on the roster, Bergeron looks to build off his freshman season that saw him explode with production midway through the season. And now that the Longhorns know exactly what they get when Bergeron touches the ball, the second-year carrier has situated himself at the front of the pack.

    Expect the Longhorns to lean heavily on the exploits of Bergeron, in partnership with Malcolm Brown. Bergeron dealt with a hamstring injury that dampened his true potential production last season, but back at 100 percent this summer, the North Mesquite product has a chance to put together an impressive sophomore campaign.

    Taking nothing away from Bergeron's lateral abilities, punishing runs from him set up perfectly for the scat backs to come in and weave through opposing defenses.

Malcolm Brown

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    Height: 6'0"
    Weight: 223 lbs
    2011 Stats: 172 ATT, 742 YDS, 5 TD
    Class: Sophomore
    Best Attribute: Vision/Balance

    The top running back from the 2011 class comes into his sophomore year as the team's returning leading rusher. But like Bergeron, Brown suffered his own injury in last year that cut his numbers well short of a full season's worth of carries.

    The former 5-star recruit uses his rare combination of size, strength, speed, power and vision to shake off tackles and find holes before they even open to rip off long runs.

    Brown looks to share the majority of carries with Bergeron, as the two serve as a couple of bruisers to loosen up opposing defenses for their quicker counterparts.

    As the future of the Texas running game is squarely on the shoulders of the current corps of backs, Brown undoubtedly occupies the vanguard with Bergeron.

    One of the two featured players who will get a bunch of touches, Brown looks more like the high school starter the Longhorns recruited and is poised for a highly productive season.

D.J. Monroe

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    Height: 5'9"
    Weight: 175 lbs
    2011 Stats: 48 ATT, 326 YDS, 1 TD
    Class: Senior
    Best Attribute: Speed

    For the better part of D.J. Monroe's first three seasons with the Longhorns, there were never shortages of more touches for the Angleton, Texas product.

    An explosive play waiting to happen every time he handles the ball, Monroe could never touch the rock enough for Texas in the past few seasons. But reportedly hampered by limitations in the playbook, the speedster claimed he was satisfied with his contributions.

    In a season that brings in two more electrifying, freshmen ball-carriers, Monroe could easily see some of his touches get pushed out of the equation. Undeniably, however, Monroe brings a distinct flair to the Texas offense that provided instant results.

    Monroe has worked more at receiver this offseason, in addition to his contributions at running back. An expanded role has to be good news for the Longhorns, but one can only wonder how it will stack up in a corps of running backs that could go six deep.

Jeremy Hills

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    Height: 6'0"
    Weight: 205 lbs
    2011 Stats: 36 ATT, 177 YDS
    Class: Senior
    Best Attribute: Quickness

    Jeremy Hills impressed in his limited look last season. After nagging injuries to Brown and Bergeron curtailed their contributions, this coming subsequent to Fozzy Whittaker's season-ending knock, Hills assumed a bigger role in the offense.

    While he hardly flashed something of a top draft selection, Hills did well despite his place on a healthy depth chart.

    The senior appears to be reduced to his usual status in the cellar of the depth chart, but there will be some looks for Hills. He may even get a look at running Texas' Wildcat formation, something that Whittaker did impressively well before his injury.

    Hills does not have top-end speed, but his quickness allows him to cut well in the open field to eat up healthy chunks of yards.

    At the end of the day, Hills is simply another able-bodied option in a running game that will feature plenty of different looks.

Johnathan Gray

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    Height: 5'11"
    Weight: 207 lbs
    2011 Stats: N/A
    Class: Freshman
    Best Attribute: Vision

    The more highly recruited as a high school player, Johnathan Gray timely comes into the program.

    Gray fits the bill as a Jamaal Charles of sorts. He is able to use his vision to see blocks developing, and then flip on the afterburners as he has the capability to race it all the way for six.

    Many see his qualities meshing nicely with the likes of the incumbents, as Gray would serve as a lightning component to complement Brown and Bergeron's thunder.

    Though it remains to be seen how many touches per game Gray will receive, there is little doubt that he will produce something special that the Longhorns haven't seen in their backfield since the days of Jamaal Charles in a true, home-run hitter.

    To better the argument for Gray's production, the Aledo product can catch out of the backfield, adding to an already impressive list of attributes and capabilities.

Daje Johnson

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    Height: 5'10"
    Weight: 184 lbs
    2011 Stats: N/A
    Class: Freshman
    Best Attribute: Quickness

    Built in the D.J. Monroe mold, Daje Johnson joins the running back corps as another speedster with end-zone potential each time he totes the rock.

    Johnson, a former TCU commit, came to Texas where Major Applewhite had a plan laid out for him.

    The reports from camp have had Johnson assimilated into portions of the offense that will look to take advantage of his quickness and agility.

    With the handy convenience of disappearing behind a bigger Texas offensive line, Johnson can spring through a hole with bursting acceleration that may be unmatched in the Longhorns program.

    With Monroe sliding over to a RB/WR combo, the move may open up more touches for Johnson to demonstrate his big-run ability.