Cleared for takeoff: what does Brown's return mean for Texas offense?

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By Bill Frisbie, Inside Texas Lead Writer
Posted Nov 6, 2012
Copyright © 2014 InsideTexas.com


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Malcolm Brown

Running back Malcolm Brown has been cleared for takeoff following a five-game layover due to an ankle injury. But what should his role be now that freshman running back Johnathan Gray has posted consecutive 100-yard games?

 

“It gives you another dimension to get him back out there,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “He’s big, powerful and fast.  He’s got the ability to do it all. He’s one of our best pass-protectors, and you can throw the ball to him. We expect him to be part of the mix.  We’ll have some things dialed up for him.”

Brown could have played last Saturday against Texas Tech, but was relegated to stand-by basis. Coaches wanted to give him the benefit of a full week of practice at full speed before mixing him back into the rotation. Brown had eight career starts before suffering his injury early in Texas’ Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State and was the team’s leading rusher with 742 yards last season.  The sophomore was coming off his best collegiate game (128 yards at Ole Miss). The biggest rub on Brown is his durability, or lack thereof.  Injuries sidelined him for nearly half the conference season during his freshman campaign.

Gray ran for 100+ yards in each of his two career starts (Kansas, Texas Tech) and is now Texas’ leading rusher with 533 yards.  The biggest chink in his armor is pass protection, and he could use another 10 pounds of lean muscle. But coaches praised his work ethic, attitude and intelligence.

Gray has been fast out of the gates the past two ballgames.  He scampered for 26 yards on Texas’ first play from scrimmage Saturday.  Two snaps later, he tallied 34 yards on the catch-and-run from David Ash. But there is a threshold to how many hits freshman running back can take, Harsin believes.  But Gray has shown he can take a licking and keep on ticking. 

“Johnathan is a physical back and he runs hard,” Harsin said.  “He took advantage of his blocks (against Tech) and make big runs out of them.  He wasn’t just getting four or five (yards), he was getting 10 or 11. It’s motivation for everyone else to know he’s hitting that hole hard and getting to the third level. He had a grit to him there at the end, and that was inspiring for everyone around him.”

Indeed, Texas ran seven straight times to seal the deal in Lubbock, and Gray had six of those totes for 36 yards. Harsin has the enviable problem of having more playmakers than there are footballs to go around.

There have been games when the likes of D.J. Monroe, Daje Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and Jaxon Shipley have been nonexistent in the stat sheet.

“There’s only one ball,” Harsin said, “and they all want it.”

This much is certain:  battering ram Joe Bergeron is expected to be more a situational back who is called to get the tough, blue collar yards.  Texas’ designated scorer has 16 touchdowns this season, which trails just Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein in the Big 12.  Gray is slated to start his third contest Saturday, but don’t expect him to continue to average the 19 touches he had the past two weeks. 

 

 

 

 

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