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Thursday, September 2, 2010
How often will Horns run it vs. Rice?

By Jeff Caplan

Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown has promised a scheme change that puts more emphasis on the rushing attack. Yet, in 2009, Texas averaged 36.6 carries a game and 39.1 carries in 2008. Hardly small rushing numbers.

Those numbers, however, are wildly skewed when talking a bona fide rushing game. In each of the last two seasons, quarterback Colt McCoy has led Texas in both carries and rushing yards. Texas finished 2009 ranked 61st in the nation in rushing, averaging 147.6 yards a game.

If first-year quarterback Garrett Gilbert winds up as the Horns' leading rusher this season, bet that Texas will have had an awful season. The plan is to utilize three running backs. A slimmed-down Cody Johnson won the starting job for Saturday's opener at Reliant Stadium against Rice. Behind him are Tre' Newton and Fozzy Whittaker.

"I don't know how the carries are going to be distributed," Texas running backs coach Major Applewhite said. "[Johnson's] getting the start not because he's lost weight or body fat. He's getting the start because of the production he's provided in fall two-a-days and spring ball as well. He's done a lot of different things. He's allowed himself to be an every-down back. Some of the things we had to pull him out of the game for last year -- we're going to run this pass, we're going to use this screen -- he was not fit for that play. He's allowed himself to be in the game and stay in those situations. If he continues to produce, he'll continue to get a full amount of carries."

So how many carries will the new ground-oriented Longhorns rack up Saturday against the Owls? Two years ago, the Horns ran it 44 times in a 52-10 thumping of Rice and the next week ran it 50 times against Arkansas. With Gilbert making his starting debut, and expected to do so much of the time under center instead of in the shotgun, and with new faces on the offensive line, Texas surely plans to  use undermanned Rice to get physical.

 The half-century mark for rushing attempts is clearly in play.

And unlike two years ago, when McCoy led the team in rushing against the Owls with 87 yards on eight carries, it would be a a major stunner if Gilbert finishes with more rushing yards than any of his three tailbacks.