As the Texas football team prepares for its trip to Pasadena this weekend, all the commotion is surrounding the new signal callers, Case McCoy and David Ash. Questions about how the duo will follow their coming out party against BYU fill a number of message boards and newspapers alike. With all the hype surrounding the quarterback position, a freshman running back is, rather quietly, preparing to take the reigns of the Texas backfield.
On Monday, Malcolm Brown was listed as the co-starter at running back alongside Fozzy Whittaker after registering 14 carries for 68 yards on Saturday. Brown will be the first true freshman running back to start at Texas since 2005 when Jamaal Charles averaged an astonishing 7.4 yards a carry, ranking third among the top-100 college running backs.
When did Charles get that first start, you may ask? The answer is Texas’ third game of the season against Rice, a night which he rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns, one of the best performances of his career.
While Brown’s situation differs from Charles’ in that he’s taking the stage in Pasadena against UCLA and not at home against Rice, history shows the third game of the season has been kind to freshmen running backs at Texas and beyond.
Let’s look back at the stats. In 2001, Cedric Benson rushed for 75 yards on a mere 14 carries, tallying one touchdown against Houston. A few years prior, in 1995, Ricky Williams posted 73 yards on 15 carries against Notre Dame.
While the yardage numbers aren’t eye-popping, that’s 5.4 and 4.9 yards per touch, respectively. Williams went on to become the second Texas player to win the Heisman Trophy. Benson went on to become a first-team all-American, rushing for 5,540 yards, winning the Doak Walker Award (for the nation’s top running back) in 2004.
Actually, freshman running backs all over have chosen the third game to break out. Georgia’s Herschel Walker, arguably the greatest running back in college football history, rushed for 121 yards on 23 carries versus Clemson in 1980. Walker went on to set the all-time rushing record at the time, tallying 1,616 yards.
Last season, Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina rushed for 97 yards and a score against Furman. Lattimore, like Brown, was the top running back of his class.
This season, Brown has seen most of his work in the second half of games. Without missing a beat, the freshman has come in and rushed for 154 total yards, averaging 5.1 yards a touch.
With the shake-up at quarterback taking the full notice of Longhorn fans, Brown has a great opportunity to show off his innate talent.
My prediction? Look for Brown to eclipse 100 yards rushing for the first of potentially many times in his career. Come Saturday afternoon, he might be on his way to joining some elite company.
Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Brown next in line? Running back could run wild in Week 3.