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Thursday, March 22, 2012
D.J. Monroe's move a must for Longhorns

By David Ubben

AUSTIN, Texas -- D.J. Monroe has shown flashes, but to this point, they've been little more.

The most memorable? An 80-yard scamper in Red River in 2010 to jolt the Longhorns awake from an early 14-0 deficit.

Monroe's role in the offense has been minimal, but his gamebreaking potential is enormous. That's clear to everyone, including Texas' coaching staff.

Monroe, despite his speed, would likely be little more than Texas' fourth-string running back next fall after Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown established themselves as top runners in 2011 and the nation's No. 1 high school running back -- Johnathan Gray -- en route to Austin this summer.

Texas' response? Helping Monroe get on the field by working him at receiver, where the Longhorns are much thinner.

"The best play D.J. has for us is the speed sweep, and he is a wide receiver when he does that," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "He will work more with (receivers coach) Darrell Wyatt the latter part of practice so we can try to get him in the game without giving it away that he's in there only for a play that he runs."

That could mean a bigger role for the bubble screen in Monroe's arsenal, too.

For Texas, though, it's a great move and a necessary one.

Monroe's a running back at heart. Brown made that clear.

"He can do things in space. So we've been trying to force tailback on him when our tailbacks are now 205 to 240, and that's not his game," Brown said. "He's 165 pounds, 170 pounds, and he needs to be a space player. And I think we've got something that can help him if he can grow in that area."

Giving Monroe the ball on bubbles like Oklahoma did with Ryan Broyles could birth big results next season. Monroe's a gamebreaker waiting to happen, but with his limited package, his touches have been minimal.

If Monroe can prove the slant route or a quick out are legitimate options defenses must respect, the whole team should be better off. It sounds small, but keep an eye out for big results.

And though Texas wants balance, don't expect the Longhorns to lose sight of what this move is really about.

"He needs to be outside," Brown said. "That's who he is."