In a Big 12 Conference where the pass is preferred on offense, the Texas Longhorns are trying to shed that mold.
The Longhorns return one of the most talented running back corps in the conference, if not the country, but its production hardly has matched the hype. Headlined by a three-headed monster in Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, the Texas running game features a full cast of skill sets that could translate into a very dangerous ground game, when fully healthy.
Brown and Gray, who were the consensus top-rated running backs in their respective recruiting classes, will probably carry most of the running load, with the bruising Bergeron serving a more specified role as a back who can wear down opposing defenses.
Texas was up and down in its running efforts last season, but with a hefty year of experience for Gray, his complements to Brown and Bergeron should provide quite the show on the ground in 2013.
The Tri-Headed Monster
Gray: 149 carries, 701 yards, 3 touchdowns; 11 receptions, 151 yards, 1 touchdown
Brown: 61 carries, 324 yards, 4 touchdowns; 15 receptions, 112 yards, 1 touchdown
Bergeron: 127 carries, 567 yards, 16 touchdowns; 9 receptions, 84 yards
While it is important to note that Brown missed five games due to injury, it is also significant that Gray appeared in all 13 games, making his presence felt immediately as a true freshman.
Bergeron's 16-touchdown season will be hard to replicate in 2013, but his strength and power up the middle will serve a huge purpose in the grand scheme of Texas' running game.
Brown and Gray figure to be carry the biggest load of the backs after posting 5.3 and 4.7 yards per carry last season. Their one-cut and go abilities matches up nicely with Bergeron's physical running style, a scheme that should be implemented and executed from day one.
With the 'Horns moving towards a spread-style offense, touches for the running backs may take a hit from last year's production, but all three backs have proven to be serviceable as a receiver out of the backfield. Such an available screen game should open up the field a little bit more for the Texas offense.
Johnson: 27 carries, 203 yards, 1 touchdown; 19 receptions, 287 yards, 1 touchdown
The speedster out of Pflugerville, Texas made an immediate presence last season, and although Marcus Johnson is listed as a receiver on the roster, he should get plenty of touches as a ball-carrier and a pass-catcher.
With D.J. Monroe and Marquise Goodwin having moved on, Johnson will take over as the go-to speed option. His 11.5 yards per touch and 7.5 yards per carry during his freshman season can hardly go ignored, and the expectation is that Johnson will take on a larger role in an offense that is built around speed.
The two-touchdown season Johnson put up last season figures to balloon mightily as the sophomore will have explosive play written all over him.
We saw what kind of damage a speedster like Goodwin was able to do late in the season, specifically in the Alamo Bowl, and if Johnson can be just as serviceable, he is definitely the X-factor for the Texas offense.