Remember that scene in Star Wars where Obi-Wan waves his hand and tells the storm trooper that these aren’t the droids he is looking for? Well basically that’s what Mack Brown in doing with the Texas run game.
Anytime Brown is in front of the media, fans, or anyone who will listen, he just waves his hand and says.
“This is the run game you are looking for.”
Last season an ineffective ground game cost Texas a National Championship. When Colt McCoy got hurt on the fifth play of the game, freshman Garrett Gilbert was handed the reins of an offense with many impressive weapons.
Too bad one of those weapons wasn’t a back that could get more than 2 yards per carry.
So after the game Brown fell on his sword and told everyone that it was his fault that Texas didn’t have a good ground game. He repeatedly said that he wished that he had more balance so that he could take some pressure off of the QBs.
So when spring practice came around Brown made a big show of saying that Texas will run the ball more and try to be more balanced. He said that they would take more snaps from under center and not have to relay on the QB throwing the ball all the time.
That sounds great, in theory.
The truth is nothing really has changed. The same three running backs that couldn’t carry the ball consistently last season are the three backs that Brown is relying on now. Texas is also grooming two new starters on the offensive line, which really can’t help a burgeoning run game.
Brown will counter with the fact that they plan to get away from the shotgun and take more snaps under center and that more runs downhill will help his backs. Again, that sounds great, in theory.
In reality they could tweak the offense as much as possible but they will never achieve the explosive run game that Texas fans want and expect.
Texas fans need to face the sad reality that maybe, just maybe, these three backs aren’t good enough. Texas has been spoiled in recent years with the likes of Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, and Jamaal Charles, all of whom are now stars in the NFL.
Tre Newton, Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson are decent, capable backs that should do well under this “new” system. All three of them will combine for over 1200 yards and will be able to take some pressure off of Gilbert, which will open up the play action pass. That’s the whole point of the run game this year: To give Gilbert a little buffer.
That’s not what Texas fans are looking for, though. They want to see the 30 to 40 yard runs. They want to see the running back carry three players into the end zone. They don’t want to see plays called just to keep the defense honest.
That is what it's really all about. Texas doesn’t need an explosive run game; they just need the perception that one is there. It's all smoke and mirrors. If Texas has moderate success running the ball teams will have to prepare for that and therefore take more pressure off of their young QB.
Brown isn’t stupid. He knows that the passing game will ultimately decide Texas’ fate this season. He is also aware that they need to be able to run the ball so that the offense is more balanced.
The problem is these aren’t the backs they are looking for.