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Texas Football: Will Thin RB Depth Doom the Longhorns in 2014?

Texas running back Malcolm Brown (28) rushes for a touchdown against Chevoski Collins (14) during the first half of the Orange and White spring NCAA college football game on Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Michael Thomas/Associated Press
Taylor GasparFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2014

When Charlie Strong hired Tommie Robinson to coach the running backs, Robinson inherited one of the most seasoned positions for the Texas Longhorns in 2014.

But the recent dismissals of senior Joe Bergeron and sophomore Jalen Overstreet have made Robinson's job a lot more difficult.

Texas currently has two veteran running backs on its roster: senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray.

When the two are healthy, they combine for one of the most potent one-two punches in college football. But the health issues are not something one can overlook.

Gray missed the final portion of the 2013 season after he suffered a torn Achilles against West Virginia on Nov. 10.

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Johnathan Gray #32 of the Texas Longhorns tries to break free against the Mississippi Rebels defense on September 14, 2013 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

After missing the entire spring, Gray was cleared to return to the team in time for fall camp.

The Texas medical staff would not have cleared him if he wasn't healthy, but how hard should he push it during fall camp? 

It's difficult to ignore the concern of if he is returning too soon. Gray said he feels as if he is 95 percent healthy, but does that mean everyone should entirely ignore that remaining five percent?

Absolutely not.

On the other hand, Brown proved to be a reliable option to take over after Gray's injury at West Virginia. He finished with more than 100 yards rushing in three of the final four games of the season.

But 2013 was the first season Brown completed without having an injury withhold him from seeing the field.

Brown's health is probably not something Texas fans should worry about week in, week out, but it's difficult not to have it in the back of your mind when one considers the thin depth at his position and how an injury to either running back could destroy the Longhorns offense.

Let's think worst-case scenario for a minute. If something unfortunate were to happen to both starting running backs, Texas would be forced to either play true freshman Donald Catalon or rely on the receivers and the passing game.

And that brings up an even bigger concern for the Longhorns.

One of the thinnest positions on the depth chart is wide receiver. Wide receiver coach Les Koenning's job became a lot more difficult with the dismissals of Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander. Add in the Orangebloods.com report (subscription required) that Jaxon Shipley suffered a hamstring injury in practice, and the receiving core is holding on by a string.

Texas did sign five wide receivers in the 2014 class, and some of those true freshmen will likely be needed this season.

But if the Texas offense is forced to be built around the receiving core, it's nearly impossible to expect a positive outcome for Strong's inaugural season in Austin.

Of course, these are all hypothetical situations. There's a good possibility that Gray and Brown will both stay healthy, which would likely lead Texas to build the offense around the dynamic duo. 

But if anything were to happen to Gray and/or Brown, the thin depth at running back could very likely doom the Texas offense.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar. 

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