Big 12: D.J. Monroe

Big 12 stock report: Week 6

October, 3, 2012
Acquisitions! Turnover! Capital markets! GDP! RG3!

Oh, that's right, I've found more terms in my financial glossary and sprinkled them on top of my weekly stock report. Here's a few things with wildly fluctuating prices in the Big 12 market.

Rising: Big 12 receivers

Those 70-63 games have a way of helping guys ascend the national offensive rankings. After Saturday's games, the Big 12 has the three leaders in receiving yards per game. Baylor's Terrance Williams, like he did on Saturday, leads the way with 166.8 yards a game. He has at least 130 yards in three of four games this year, and had 314 against West Virginia. Before Saturday, he had 17 catches on the year. He had 17 catches on Saturday. Ridiculous.

Meanwhile, West Virginia's Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are No. 2 and No. 3, both topping 140 yards a game. Austin leads the nation at 12 receptions a game.

Falling: Oklahoma State defense

This wasn't supposed to be how this went for a more experienced defense that didn't need to rely on turnovers as much anymore. Outside of a shutout in an exhibition game vs. Savannah State, the Cowboys are giving up 41 points a game. Through four games, the Cowboys have forced just four turnovers, too, ranking 106th nationally in the stat. That's a far cry from the nation-leading 44 a year ago. The star duo of cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown both picked off five passes a year ago, tying for second in the Big 12. This year? Neither Gilbert nor Brown have done an ounce of thieving on opposing quarterbacks.

Rising: Kickoff returns

The new kickoff rules have stymied the league's speedsters, but Big 12 return men are making plays when they get the ball in their hands. D.J. Monroe was named the National Returner of the Week after taking a kick 100 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the win over Oklahoma State. That was the second time Monroe had returned a kick all season, so he's batting a clean .500 on taking kicks to the house. Meanwhile, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett's only gotten to return five this year. He's averaging 39 yards a touch, ranking second nationally. He also logged a touchdown in the win over North Texas. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert hasn't housed one yet, but he ranks 13th nationally, returning his 10 kicks for an average of better than 30 yards.

Falling: Field goal kicking

Saturday was not a banner day for Big 12 kickers. The 70-63 game was fun, but Baylor and West Virginia combined to go 0-3 on field goals. Texas refused to even try to kick a field goal on Saturday, but the Longhorns were perfect on fourth-down conversions.

Overall, the Big 12 was 5-of-10 on field goals on Saturday, and every single kicker who attempted a field goal missed at least one. For West Virginia, that was only their second field goal attempt of the season. Nobody in college football has attempted fewer.

Rising: Texas in the red zone

One of the Longhorns' biggest problems a year ago was red zone offense. Texas reached the red zone 53 times and walked away with a touchdown on just 27 of those trips, settling for field goals 11 times and walking away with no points 15 times. That TD percentage of 50.94 ranked 104th nationally.

This year, Texas is converting in a big way. It has reached the red zone 22 times and walked away with points 20 times. Of those 20, 18 have been touchdowns. That touchdown percentage (81.82 percent) is the second highest in the Big 12 (West Virginia, of course). That came into play big-time in a five-point win over Oklahoma State. Texas reached the red zone four times. It scored touchdowns on all four trips.

Falling: Texas turnovers

So, you think K-State takes care of the ball, giving up just three giveaways in four games? Uh, what about Texas? The Longhorns turned the ball over 26 times a year ago, ranking 86th nationally in the stat. So far this year, the Longhorns have a whopping two giveaways. Only three teams (coincidentally, West Virginia and Texas A&M are among them) have fewer.

Texas is a lot better this year, and though the QB play is a big reason why, a lot of the other reasons are the small big things. Texas is scoring TDs when it gets chances, and it's not giving the ball to the other guys. Not difficult stuff to understand.
Malcolm Brown has been ruled out for the West Virginia game with a sprained ankle, but if there’s one position on this Texas roster that can handle that loss it’s the stable of running backs.

Brown was off to a strong start to his sophomore season with two 100-yard rushing games, but it’s Joe Bergeron who Texas has leaned on more this season. Though the two split carries, Bergeron is the starter for a reason.

[+] EnlargeMalcolm Brown
Spruce Derden/US PresswireMalcolm Brown ran the ball just three times in Texas' 41-36 win over Oklahoma State.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound sophomore leads Texas with 52 carries for 255 yards and five scores and provides the bruising power rushing necessary to complement the versatile Brown.

Since rushing for 110 yards on 15 carries in the opener against Wyoming, Bergeron has produced three near-identical stat lines of 48 or 49 rushing yards on between 11 and 15 carries. When Brown went down against Oklahoma State, he took over the lion’s share of the carries.

In the greater scheme of the offense, Bergeron has been the steady rock that Texas’s scheme relies on, and offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has paired Bergeron’s 4-yards-per-carry punch with a collection of explosive skill players.

D.J. Monroe has scored a touchdown in each of Texas’s four games this season, including three on the ground. Fellow back/receiver Daje Johnson has produced 127 yards of total offense on 12 touches in his freshman season. Marquise Goodwin is also a threat on sweeps and reverses and produced an 69-yard touchdown run against Ole Miss.

Texas will have these three weapons in full force against a West Virginia defense that showed against Baylor it is prone to making mistakes that create lots of open space.

Without a doubt, though, the Texas rushing game can survive Brown’s absence -- and perhaps even thrive despite it -- because of the emergence of Johnathan Gray.

The freshman back has begun playing up to his five-star hype. After seeing limited action in the Longhorns’ first two games, Gray has established himself as a threat that Harsin and co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite can trust.

He rushed for 50 yards on nine carries in mop-up time against Ole Miss, but it wasn’t until Texas called upon him when Brown went down against OSU that Gray showed he’s ready.

Gray got a struggling rushing game back on track with 12 carries for 68 yards, and operated the Longhorns’ Wild formation with ease. He ran for 20 of those yards on three carries out of the Wild, including 13 yards after contact.

In Gray, Bergeron and senior Jeremy Hills, Texas has a proven rotation of running backs. When Brown went down three carries into his night against Oklahoma State, the trio got the job done.

That job is markedly more difficult without Brown, but Texas has the luxury of lots of options for replacing the hole he leaves in its lineup and a full week to prepare accordingly. Expect a game plan that features an even greater role for Gray and Hills and more methods for getting the ball to Monroe and Johnson.

UT, Tech, WVU grab Big 12 weekly honors

October, 1, 2012
The Big 12 has announced its Big 12 Players of the Week for Week 5, as voted on by a media panel. It was a banner day for the bottom of the alphabet in the Big 12.

Offense: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

No doubt about this one. Smith threw for 656 yards and eight touchdowns on 45-of-51 passing in a 70-63 win over Baylor. His eight scores tied B.J. Symon's Big 12 record at Texas Tech, and had three players top 100 yards receiving. He was named the Walter Camp National Player of the Week, too.

Defense: Cornelius Douglas, CB, Texas Tech

Douglas intercepted Iowa State's Steele Jantz twice, returning his second pick 40 yards to set up Texas Tech's final touchdown of the night, giving the Red Raiders a 21-13 lead in the eventual 24-13 win over Iowa State. His return put Tech on the Iowa State 9-yard line. He finished with two tackles, too.

Special Teams: D.J. Monroe, KR, Texas

Monroe broke two tackles on his 100-yard kick return for a touchdown that gave the Longhorns a 21-14 lead in their win over Oklahoma State on Saturday. It was the third of his career, and he also had 24 rushing yards on three carries.
STILLWATER, Okla. -- This time, there was no time for David Ash to lean on his running game. A go-ahead touchdown drive with seven runs and two short passes didn't put Texas ahead for long enough, and down two points, Texas had 2 minutes, 34 seconds to become the first team to win in Stillwater since Oklahoma won a Big 12 South title at Boone Pickens Stadium in 2010.

The Longhorns sideline wasn't lacking for confidence in the eventual 41-36 victory over Oklahoma State that sent Texas to 4-0 and, most likely, into the top 10.

Texas coach Mack Brown was clear with his defense on the previous drive: "Hold them to a field goal, and we're going to win the game," he said.

"We were going to win the game," running back D.J. Monroe said. "That's just our mentality."

Ash stared a fourth-and-6 in the face with the Cowboys crowd louder than it had been all night. With three receivers on his left, Ash dropped back and hit D.J. Grant over the middle for a 29-yard gain on a play he admitted after the game was his first read all along.

The Cowboys were taking away the sidelines and his check-down throws to running backs. He had to get adventurous and test the middle of OSU's defense.

"It was not a time to be scared to make a mistake," Ash said. "It was a time to give it everything you had."

Two plays later, Ash indulged receiver Mike Davis, who, earlier in the night, begged him for a another chance after dropping what would have been a long touchdown grab. Blanketed by a future NFL cornerback in Justin Gilbert, Ash let it fly. Davis hauled in a jump ball for a 32-yard gain down to the 5-yard-line and Texas was officially in position to log the biggest victory for the program since a Big 12 title win at Cowboys Stadium over Nebraska all the way back in 2009.

"He will not be under any more pressure than this, and he couldn't have done this this time last year. He's really grown up," Brown said. "He's the leader of this football team."

[+] EnlargeMike Davis, Justin Gilbert
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiMike Davis hauls in the 32-yard jump ball over Justin Gilbert that set up Texas' winning score.
When it was over, Brown joined his quarterback for a triumphant trot past a delirious pocket of Texas fans in the northeast corner of the stadium. Both flashed a "Hook 'Em" hand sign on their way to the locker room with a feeling that has been all too unfamiliar in Austin these past few years.

One drive to win a game, and Texas' quarterback led it to victory.

"It's a lot of fun. When you grow up and learn the position, it's what you dream of. What you lay down at night thinking about," Ash said. "Joe Montana, Joe Cool. Tom Brady. The guys that did it in the clutch."

Texas' brand-new quarterback grew up Saturday night. It's one thing to stay calm in blowouts against New Mexico or even on the road at Ole Miss. It's another to do so on the road against a team that beat you at home in each of the past two seasons on the way to 23 wins in two years. It's another to do so against that team facing a game-deciding drive when the probability of a loss is high.

Ash's teammates couldn't stop talking about his poise and composure in the difficult, frenzied environment.

"He stayed real composed the whole time and that's how we like him," Monroe said. "We don't like him to get all frustrated. We like him to stay the David Ash that we know: quiet, calm and collected."

He finished 30-of-37 for 304 yards, and three touchdowns, just one fewer touchdown than he threw all of last season.

"The four games this year, he's been near perfect," Brown said. "He's run the offense well and he didn't get flustered tonight, even with the sacks, because we didn't do as many things up front well offensively."

He also threw his first interception of the season, but he bounced back to lead the Longhorns to a pair of go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter, including the final one that clinched the win. After the interception, Texas scored touchdowns on three of its final four drives.

"Last year, he had bad body language. He was hard on himself," Brown said. "He moved on, forgot it and left it alone."

Texas was better off for it on Saturday night, and the scoreboard showed the evidence.

"He's a lot more mature, and he makes better reads," said receiver Jaxon Shipley, who caught all three of Ash's touchdown passes. "He's always had a great arm, but he's making a lot better decisions this year."

That will lead to plenty more outcomes like Texas saw Saturday, and maybe even a few more heroics.

Mailbag: Fastest players, Tech-ISU, QBs

September, 28, 2012
Thanks for all the emails this week. Should be a fun weekend of games. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

On to this week's Mailbag:

Jason in Austin writes: David, I keep seeing you write about how fast Tavon Austin is, and as a Longhorn fan, I keep trying to compare his speed to Marquis Goodwin or DJ Monroe. Who, in your opinion, are the five fastest players in the Big 12?

David Ubben: This category is pretty tough. Ultimately, we can't know until we line these guys up and have them go at it. So, who's the absolute fastest? We have no real idea. It's a big group and I don't think you can narrow it down to just five. That said, there's a class of guys who are clearly among the elite. Here's who I've got as guys who have a case (in no particular order) as the fastest man in the league:
From what I've seen so far, Texas Tech freshman Jakeem Grant might join that group, but I want to see him with the ball in his hands a little more often.

ksucats44 in Manhattan writes: Hey DU,Could you post links to all the "where to go" articles somewhere so that we can look at them in preparation for away games?

DU: I've got you covered. I may tweet or post them during the week for every Big 12 school hosting a home game.

Here are the city guides you need for this weekend:

Big 12 Blog guides to:

The Old Scarlet and Black in Lubbock writes: You got to make up your mind Ubb's. First you put us on upset alert, then pick us to win. You say our WR's are deep but then do this talking about how WVU and Baylor as the best offenses in the league. Either take us out to dinner or stop texting us late at night! If we make it out of Ames with the win what are our chances of being the team that you think will do the upsetting next week instead of the team you think will be upset... again?

DU: It's kind of crazy, actually. People get more fired up about being put on upset alert than they actually do about me picking their teams to lose.

Here's how I approach upset alert each week: It's not necessarily a game that I think will be an upset. It's simply the underdog with the best chance to pull a surprise each week. TCU is going to take care of business this weekend at SMU. I don't think Baylor's got much of a chance to beat West Virginia and I think Texas rolls against Oklahoma State.

Tech was pretty much the only team left, and Iowa State at home is always scary. I don't necessarily pick my upset alerts in my predictions, but it's my game of the week that might go the opposite way experts expect. Nothing to get all bent out of shape about. Some weeks, there's more potential for upsets. Some weeks, there really aren't any, and I end up having to pick Texas State against Tech. Take it easy, folks.

Josh in Salina, Kan., writes: Not that it really matters much, but I wanted to ask about the shovel pass/fumble thing. I agree that super duper slow mo looked like Jones' hands were intentionally moving forward, but how many times have you seen a QB throw a shovel pass that falls incomplete and without any hesitation the QB starts to run after the ball?!? If he really had passed it, he would have just stood there and not put himself in harms way going after an incomplete pass. Who does that? ... Unless it was unintended...

DU: I've never seen K-State fans more fired up than when I insisted it was the right call. It was. This play, popularized by Dana Holgorsen in recent years, is technically a shovel pass, but it's sort of a hot potato play that's super dependent on timing.

Like we saw from Oklahoma, it can look terrible when it's done right. When Oklahoma State has done it the past two years and West Virginia does it with Geno Smith and Tavon Austin, it looks pretty good. Jones clearly possessed the ball and re-directed its path toward Roy Finch, who was completely oblivious and got an earful from receiver Trey Metoyer after the play.

As for Jones' reaction, when the ball's on the ground on a short pass like that, I'm sure his instincts just took over and he went after the ball. That doesn't mean it was a fumble.

It was incomplete, and it was the right call from officials.

Will in South Bend/Morgantown writes: Hey Ubbs. Which QB do you think goes the longest without throwing a pick among the current sans interception QBs? Which games do you think each makes their first blunder?

DU: I'm taking Geno Smith on this one. David Ash will throw a pick this weekend against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys secondary is too talented. Justin Gilbert or Brodrick Brown will get one, and Geno will be the Big 12's last man standing after this week against Baylor.

Lucien in Omaha, Neb., writes: First, you knew this was coming. You doubted Paul Rhoads (which you said never, ever, ever to do?again). Not only did you doubt Rhoads and the 'Clones but you picked TT to win by a fairly large margin. AND you've been touting how hard it is becoming to win in Ames. You know what I think it is? I think you're still a teenage boy at heart and are picking against the Cyclones just to defy your ISU alum father. I can't think of any other reason why you woul have Tech by such a large margin. When are you going to come to the same conclusion that the AP voters and Coaches have come to? Even Vegas says they are 3 point dogs. It's time to quit fighting it and give ISU it's due.

DU: Ha, I don't think that's the reason. I was never much of a rebel. I mostly think Iowa State won't be able to cover Tech's receivers, and that Seth Doege is criminally underrated around the league. With an offense back at full strength and clicking, he's going to have a huge game. Iowa State's defense has looked good of late, but that stat about nine consecutive games giving up fewer than 30 points in regulation? Let's break it down.

The first was against Tech, and yeah, that win was impressive. No qualms there. Holding Kansas under 30? Iowa State and just about everybody else last year. Oklahoma State? Impressive, but we've talked about the circumstances of that game plenty over the past few months. I'm not going to get into that any more than to say that it wasn't the same OSU team we were used to seeing.

Oklahoma? That game took place in about 40 mph winds and Oklahoma's receivers dropped about nine passes. That was in the post-Ryan Broyles era at OU, too. Kansas State? The Wildcats were seventh in the Big 12 in scoring last year and Iowa State held them just two points below their average. Rutgers? Come on.

It's an impressive stat, sure. But it's not indicative of some just amazing defense that Big 12 teams can't deal with. The Oklahoma State game was the most impressive of the lot by far, and we saw some inspired stuff from the Cyclones, but that 30-point streak ends this weekend.

Evan in Atlanta writes: What will you do if Baylor's defense pitches a shutout at WVU Saturday?

DU: Give up hope and give up this blog. If that happens, it will be official: I don't know anything about this game.

Instant analysis: Texas 66, Ole Miss 31

September, 16, 2012

Nothing short of a great win for Texas tonight. Definitely felt a lot like David Ash took some big steps toward maturity in the Longhorns' first road trip of 2012.

He completed 15 consecutive passes from the first to third quarters, and showed some big improvement as the Longhorns rolled over Ole Miss, 66-31.

Time for some instant analysis:

It was over when: Texas opened the second half with a dominant drive, going 78 yards in seven plays and capping it with a powerful D.J. Monroe 10-yard touchdown run. That put the Longhorns up 38-10 and took even more energy out of an amped crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Any idea of an upset ended when Texas asserted itself to open the half and prevented the Rebels from gaining any momentum.

Gameball goes to: Ash. Did we just see his career breakout game? Ole Miss' secondary looked ragged for much of the game, but Ash, a sophomore, played the best game of his career, and showed plenty of promise that he could be depended on later in the season. He finished 19-of-23 for 326 yards, four touchdowns and still has yet to throw his first interception of 2012. Did anyone think we could see this kind of performance out of Ash this early in the season?

Stat of the game: Texas won the turnover battle, 3-0. That included an interception from Steve Edmond that opened the game's scoring. He returned a Bo Wallace pass 22 yards for a touchdown.

Unsung hero of the game: Texas' offensive line. The big uglies up front gave David Ash all day to throw, and the holes were roomy and frequent for Texas' rushing attack all night long. The focus in this game will be on Ash's performance, but the offensive line deserves plenty of credit, too.

What Texas learned: The offense can look like a juggernaut from time to time. We haven't seen an offensive performance like this from Texas in a long, long time. Texas hadn't scored this many points since the Big 12 title game in 2005, and the next game ended with the Longhorns hoisting a national championship trophy. It's too soon to have any talk close to that, but Ash's development makes that power running game up front even tougher to stop. His difficult freshman season seemed pretty far in the rearview mirror tonight.

What Ole Miss learned: The defense has a long way to go. Receivers were open all day, and when Ash put the ball in the air, the Rebels defensive backs never seemed to be able to find it. The front seven were dominated, and the Longhorns made this win look easy. Could be a long season in Oxford for Hugh Freeze's first season.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown made two things clear concerning his heralded freshmen class at his press conference on Wednesday: They can’t sing worth a darn but, boy, can they play.

“We had a little night last night where the freshmen had to sing and they were awful,” Brown said. "Awful. They better make a living in football because they won’t make it in singing.”

[+] EnlargeCayleb Jones
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comTrue freshman Cayleb Jones is listed as a backup receiver for the Longhorns.
From the sounds of it there are several that have at least taken the first step toward doing so.

Fifteen freshmen were listed on the depth chart when it was released to the media on Wednesday. This coming after the Longhorns played 18 freshmen in 2011, which was the most in the country.

Brown admitted that there were others from the 26 freshmen that were signed in 2012 that would probably play against Wyoming on Sept. 1.

One name notably absent from the list was Daje Johnson, who has been one of the talks of camp because of his versatility as both a running back and receiver in Texas’ “T&Z” package with senior D.J. Monroe.

Brown said that Johnson is suspended for the season opener for a violation of team rules.

“He will not be involved in the first depth chart and that will not change,” Brown said.

There were, however, nine freshmen that did make the cut offensively. None really came as a surprise.

Johnathan Gray, high school football’s all-time touchdown leader, is listed as the third string running back behind sophomores Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and ahead of senior Jeremy Hills.

(Read full post)

HornsNation links: New positions, new TE

July, 17, 2012
Carter Strickland writes: They're called T and Z; new positions and schemes to get more ball carriers on the field. But will more letters lead to more production?

William Wilkerson writes Insider: Their resumes are slightly different, but Texas tight end commit Geoff Swaim has followed a similar under-the-radar path as NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
In the wake of what was the pummeling at the hands of Oklahoma, Texas coach Mack Brown turned to co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and told him to tone down the offense.

It was all too much too soon. Texas’ offense, which was in its infancy in both personnel and play calling, could not adroitly execute double-reverse passes and the like against the experienced speed of the Big 12’s best. So the call was made to keep it simple.

Even a casual glance at Harsin’s history of coaching and one at the more mature Texas offense, and it was clear all that simplicity simply couldn’t last. Add then two more letters of the alphabet -- T and Z -- to the soup that has become the 2012 Texas offense.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Monroe
Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesD.J. Monroe will have to improve his receiving abilities to find more impact in 2012.
“We're working on it,” Brown said.

What Texas is working on is a way of adding a hybrid-type position on the field for all the hybrid players that it has on the roster -- D.J. Monroe, Daje Johnson and even Johnathan Gray on occasion. The “T” part of the equation is tailback. The “Z” part is wide receiver.

“That means they'll line up in the backfield some, and you'll shift and motion them to a Z position,” Brown said. “We have to figure out what all that means.”

What Texas wants it to mean is that it can spread the defense out more and then exploit the holes that are created by the separation of defensive players. This, as Monroe proved with his 6.8 yards per carry average in 2011, can be extremely effective.

But as Monroe and the offense also proved, spreading he defense worked best against those defense that were already porous. His biggest games running the ball came against Rice, BYU and Baylor. Texas has to figure out how to make it work, consistently, against teams like Kansas State and Oklahoma.

“We feel those guys are speed guys and can get the ball in their hands and help us with explosive plays,” Brown said. “They're working hard this summer on getting packages to get D.J. more involved, but Daje, to get him involved early in the process because we think he has a chance to be a good player with his explosive speed.”

Those explosive plays are crucial to Texas. The Longhorns, a team that struggled to score last season and were eighth in the Big 12 in that category, had 61 scores. Fifty-nine of those scores came as a direct result of an explosive play -- runs of 10 or more yards, passes of 20 or more -- or at the end of a drive in which Texas had an explosive play.

So it is clear Texas needs to generate explosive plays. Adding the hybrid T-Z position is the way it wants to go about doing just that. And with a more experienced offensive line, wide receivers who are willing to block downfield and a more relaxed and savvy quarterback, it could work.

But the potential fly in the soup is the Z part of the equation.

Monroe’s hands are a liability. And Johnson’s are an unknown.

“We haven't seen [Johnson] catch because he was a tailback,” Brown said. “But we feel like that's what we're looking for.”

Monroe started to work on his hands in the spring. It has been a long process. Johnson has been on campus and working with the quarterbacks since June. The coaches are unable to do what they do during the summer, which is coach. But they have continued to work with the new scheme.

"The coaches will spend a lot of the summer trying to expand on what that means,” Brown said.

What it could mean is that Texas has more versatility and Harsin a few more options when it comes to opening up the playbook in the fall.

HornsNation links: 2014 DBs, handling hype

June, 27, 2012
HornsNation has more coverage of the Texas Longhorns:

William Wilkerson writes Insider: Work out, sleep, repeat. That's Tony Brown's plan to chisel out his spot atop the 2014 Texas defensive backs class.

Four Downs Insider: Sean Adams looks at overrated and underrated parts of the 2012 Longhorns and reacts to playoff news.

Burnt Orange Breakdown Insider: The series looks at D.J. Monroe. He has changed positions, but will it lead to more of an impact?

60 days, 60 stats Insider: Today's stat focuses on passes broken up against Texas QBs. It was low in 2011 and could get lower in 2012.
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."

Moving Monroe to make screens work

March, 21, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- D.J. Monroe cannot find a way to get the ball in his hands and make an impact.

Texas cannot figure out an effective use of the bubble screen.

OK, let’s all pause here for a moment … now slowly put two and two together. Don’t think you are all alone in figuring it out. Texas had that aha moment as well. That’s why as of now Monroe, who was ineffective at running back, has become a wide receiver.

Click here for the rest of Carter Strickland's story.
We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the running backs ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

1. Texas A&M

The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael averaged 6 yards per carry before a torn ACL ended his season.
2. Missouri

Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.

3. Oklahoma State

Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.

4. Baylor

Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.

5. Texas

Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma got great contributions from walk-on Dominique Whaley early on, and he proved to be the team's most effective runner and best runner between the tackles. He fractured his ankle in midseason, and finished with just 627 yards to lead the team. Roy Finch emerged late in the seasons after a quiet first half and added 605 yards.

7. Kansas

KU's James Sims led the team in rushing again with 727 yards. Darrian Miller was excellent, too, with 559 yards, though he was dismissed after the season. Freshmen Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon have plenty of promise, both averaging more than 5.5 yards a carry in 2011. The bad news: All their carries were limited by an awful defense that limited KU's chances to run the ball.

8. Kansas State

K-State's rushing attack centered around Klein, but John Hubert, a slippery back from Waco, Texas, had a good year. Hubert was seventh in the Big 12 with 970 yards. Bryce Brown offered basically nothing to K-State, and beyond Klein and Hubert, the Wildcats were pretty thin. Additionally, without Klein, would Hubert have duplicated his success?

9. Texas Tech

An awful knee injury derailed Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, and the rest of Texas Tech's backfield got banged-up, too. Stephens will probably return in 2012 from his dislocated knee, and finished with 565 yards, 17th in the Big 12. Aaron Crawford and DeAndre Washington both topped 300 yards.

10. Iowa State

ISU lost Shontrelle Johnson for the season early on, but James White filled in well. He finished with 743 yards, which ranked ninth in the Big 12. Jeff Woody had 380 yards and provided quality carries late, including the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State.

Longhorns taking on Tech without top WR

November, 5, 2011
Texas' freshman trio is missing an important player.

A knee injury suffered last week against Kansas will keep Longhorns receiver Jaxon Shipley out of today's game against Texas Tech.

His status was in doubt through the week, but team officials ruled him out on Saturday morning.

Shipley's 33 receptions, 438 yards and three touchdowns all lead the Longhorns, and it'll be a huge loss.

Texas Tech can put up points in a hurry (unless they're playing Iowa State after a historic victory) and it's pretty clear where the responsibility goes now.

The Longhorns' defense has to slow down Tech, but when Texas has the ball, look for more focus on another freshman, Malcolm Brown.

The former blue-chip recruit has carried a heavy load for the Longhorns in past weeks, topping 100 yards in three of the past five games and carrying the ball a career-high 28 times in last week's win against Kansas.

Look for him to get a similar load this week, and some more work for Fozzy Whittaker, Joe Bergeron, and D.J. Monroe.

Shipley has been Texas' most reliable receiver, but when freshman quarterback David Ash is forced to throw it, keep an eye on Mike Davis. He's been somewhat underwhelming this season (27 rec., 418 yards, TD), but he might have to play big today for Texas to get the win.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 2

September, 11, 2011
A look back on the week that was.

Iowa State is once again the Big 12's most endearing program. The Cyclones trailed five times against in-state rival Iowa at Jake Trice Stadium on Saturday. But with a handful of brand-new faces on offense and some of the league's most underrated defensive talents, it rallied to beat the Hawkeyes in triple overtime. The second-biggest crowd ever at Iowa State showed up, and the Cyclones put on a heck of a show for the brand-new scoreboard towering above the Jacobson Building. Did we see Steele Jantz write the first chapter of what could be a legendary legacy at Iowa State? If so, you couldn't ask for a better start, giving coach Paul Rhoads his third landmark victory in three years at Iowa State. Shades of Seneca, no doubt. I had Iowa State last in my power rankings last week. Expect upward movement this week.

[+] EnlargeIowa State's Steele Jantz
Reese Strickland/US PRESSWIREIowa State quarterback Steele Jantz completed 25 of 37 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns against Iowa.
Oklahoma State is all kinds of legit. Brandon Weeden was even better than he was last year, Justin Blackmon was his usual self and Joseph Randle emerged as a big time running back, nearly notching 100 yards rushing and receiving in a single game. The defense, too, looked great. Arizona isn't a great team, and yes, it was missing Juron Criner, but the Cowboys are looking the part of Big 12 contender. We'll see how they measure up to Tulsa next week (Oklahoma was up on the Golden Hurricane 44-7 entering the fourth quarter) before a huge game in College Station in Sept. 24 that is easily one of the most important games of the year in the Big 12.

Missouri might be a victim of its own success. The stars just haven't quite aligned for the Tigers. Blaine Gabbert absolutely should have left for the NFL, and he'll have success there. But Missouri's most experienced team in a long time is being led by a first-year quarterback in James Franklin. Franklin was big time more often than not in Friday night's OT loss to Arizona State, but Missouri is a top 10 team with Gabbert. Without Gabbert, it may tumble out of or toward the bottom of the top 25. Franklin's going to be very good, but Gabbert was already very good. Franklin took huge steps on Friday night, and showed lots of promise, but Missouri has to wonder what could have been. This isn't a rebuilding year. It could have been "The Year" for Missouri, despite obvious struggles at cornerback throughout the night. Missouri's going to be a very good team, but after Friday? It's pretty clear the Tigers are going to have to wait at least another year before being a major factor in the Big 12 title race. As the only Big 12 team with a loss two weeks into the season, I'll leave it up to you all to crack a "You are the weakest link" joke. There's nothing wrong with a flashback to 2003.

Kansas will be able to scare -- if not beat -- some Big 12 teams this year. Northern Illinois isn't a juggernaut, but last year's Kansas team doesn't win this game. The improvement is there for Turner Gill in Year 2, and it starts at quarterback. Jordan Webb had a big night (281 yards, 3 TD), but it doesn't end there. The Jayhawks are much more athletic everywhere, but especially at the skill positions. Darrian Miller and James Sims combined for 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Eight receivers caught passes, led by D.J. Beshears with seven catches for 70 yards and two scores, including the game-winner. Kansas is putting together the nuts and bolts of a team that has what it takes to win the Big 12. They've got a long way to go, but the Jayhawks are headed in the right direction.

Texas is ready to slop for wins. On the field, Texas looked pretty similar to what it had last year. Outside of a freed D.J. Monroe, Malcolm Brown doing a good job of living up to hype and Jaxon Shipley making Big 12 fans groan by catching passes from Case McCoy, Texas is a team with a strong defense and unremarkable offense. But something was obviously different on Saturday night, and it's toughness. Mack Brown drew on his team's experience last year against UCLA in a halftime speech players raved about after the game. Early in the season, it trailed 13-3 to a mediocre team. It was blown out, 34-12. Brown doesn't have to wonder if last year's team would have won Saturday's game. He knows it wouldn't. Why the difference? I'm chalking it up to humility from an awful 2010, and new strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie. "If you can get everybody to run up those bleachers at the very top, and everybody on the team finishes? That's how it is, man," said running back D.J. Monroe. Monroe compared losing at home last year -- which Texas did five times -- to having somebody take out his mother. Texas wants to "protect this house," which they spent the summer gaining an intimate knowledge of with a souped-up conditioning regimen from Wylie. "That's a shoutout to Coach Wylie," Monroe said of his comments. "After A&M, it was the worst feeling ever, and we don't want to experience that ever again. If we go out and play our hearts out every single night, I feel like that can be a result."

The Big 12 is the home for drama. And I'm not even talking about the realignment rumpus that dominated the week's headlines. OK, yeah I am. But when Baylor isn't spearheading a litigious standoff that may force Texas A&M's route to the SEC to take a detour through a courtroom, these teams make for some pretty outstanding theater on the field. Texas rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat BYU, 17-16, on a late touchdown. Missouri erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit and missed a game-winning field goal with seconds remaining before losing in overtime to Arizona State. Kansas beat Northern Illinois on a six-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds left that had to be reviewed--and was upheld. But Iowa State topped them all, knocking off rival Iowa in triple overtime, despite trailing on five different occasions throughout the day. Let's do it again next week. College football, we missed you this summer. Never leave us again.