The Texas Longhorns running game has fans salivating. And for good reason. They had not one but two breakout performances last season in Junior D’Onta Foreman and Sophomore Chris Warren III. Brother of true freshman WR Collin Johnson, Kirk Johnson showed flashes of potential from his few touches. They also bring in from the 2016 class Kyle Porter who has a decent chance to see action this year. But Texas hasn’t had a three headed monster in the backfield since Malcolm Brown, Jonathan Gray, and Joe Bergeron. That trio over a two year span accounted for 3,638 total yards and 40 TDs. With new Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert calling the shots, Texas should expect a whole lot more than that.
The aptly nicknamed “Smash Brothers” had some very special moments despite an overwhelmingly disappointing season as a whole. That 5-7 record may have swallowed just how down right remarkable those two backs were. As a result, most fans might not know exactly what they pulled off.
- D’Onta Foreman’s 81 yard run vs. OU was the first 80+ yard rush since 2012 Daje Johnson vs. Baylor.
- Foreman’s 93 TD run vs. Kansas was the first 90+ yard run since 1967.
- Warren’s 91 TD run vs. Tech is good for 4th best all time. Behind Foreman.
- Texas has never had two backs break 90+ yard runs in a single season ever.
- As the 2nd string back, Foreman rushed for over 100 yards 4 times this season. Tied for 19th all time.
- Warren’s 276, 4 TD game vs. Tech is good for 6th all time in single game performance. 1st all time Freshman record single game performance. Unseating Cedric Benson by 63 yards.
- Warren’s 91 yard run is the longest ever by a freshman and the longest by a freshman since 1973.
It’s safe to say that something special is brewing in the Texas backfield.
What might be the most surprising is their collective sizes. Grown men. Right now, the four backs are all over 200 pounds. Johnson listed at 205. Porter at 208. Foreman at 249. Warren at 252. However, the reality is they will slim down after Summer workouts and fall camp. But Texas has the option of 4 cannon balls being fired through opposing defenses. Foreman and Warren have both shown that the weight is simply pure muscle and has zero negative effects on their bursts and speed. Both have low centers of gravity, elite balance, and are a nightmare to bring down.
Opposing defenses are going to be very sore after 4 quarters of trying to tackle the Texas running backs. The Longhorns are legitimately looking at two 1,000 yard seasons from Foreman and Warren. It’s not a question of if they’ll get the carries. It’s how many.
Success for Sterlin Gilbert and the new Texas offense will start in the backfield. After Interim OC Jay Norvell went to a primarily run heavy offense after the ND disaster, the Texas offensive line improved dramatically in run blocking situations. They churned out monster performances on the ground against Cal, OU, Kansas, WVU, and Texas Tech. They are primed to get things rolling again. Gilbert will build his system out from the run game. He’s demonstrated that over the course of his coaching tenure while installing the same offense at now three different schools.
Looking back to his most recent body of work at Tulsa, fans can get a sense of what to expect in the first 4-5 games. This is rushing attempts vs. passing attempts and the carry distribution for the three main backs.
Opponent | Rush Att. | Pass Att. | RB 1 | RB 2 | RB 3 | Yards
vs. FAU | 51 | 33 | 22 | 20 | 14 | 194
vs. UNM | 59 | 21 | 33 | 20 | 2 | 279
vs. ULM | 62 | 45 | 16 | 38 | 8 | 222
Total | 172 | 99 | 71 | 78 | 24 | 695
So expect Texas to lean on it’s rushing attack early and often. That’s not to say this will be the same offense from a year ago. If the run game comes on strong then the Longhorns will eventually settle into the passing game. Tulsa ended the year with 591 total rushing attempts to 492 passing attempts. Which is the steady 55/45 split that is to be expected of Gilbert’s system.
The dream scenario of it all coming together will look like a high speed barrage of Foreman, Warren, and Johnson. Once the defense sinks in and starts keying in to the run game then it’s a deep post or seam route over the top. That is if the backs don’t break a long TD run first… Texas is going to light up the score board.
Follow @ACAllAmericans for quality, up-to-date sports reporting.