Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Young backs providing spark for Longhorns
By David Ubben
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas had 18 true freshmen play in its 34-9 win against Rice last week.
The team in college football closest to that number? Defending national champion Auburn, with 13.
The Longhorns added efforts from seven more redshirt freshmen, but there's no question about the fresh face that drew the most attention in Week 1.
Running back Malcolm Brown didn't play in the first half, but had 16 carries for 86 yards in the second half -- both game highs -- with his longest runs drawing a rise out of the 101,624 in attendance.
Texas true freshman Malcolm Brown had 86 yards on 16 second half carries in his college debut.
"As a freshman, you get 80 yards rushing? That’s pretty good," said linebacker Keenan Robinson.
It is, and Brown's debut showed promise of what may come. He came to Texas as the nation's No. 7 overall recruit and No. 2 running back.
The hope for Longhorns' fans? That Brown becomes "The Next Great Texas Running Back" along the lines of Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson or Jamaal Charles.
"Everybody has their 'Welcome to college football' moment. Nobody is exempt from that, so the thing about Malcolm, and really the whole freshman class, is they’ve done a great job of coming in, keeping their mouth shut and going to work," said senior safety Blake Gideon. "They’ve put aside whatever kind of recruiting stars they had and whatever kind of hype they had, because in the end, it’s just hype. They’ve really worked their tails off this summer and this camp, and now we’re going to see who’s producing."
Brown produced in Week 1, but for now, he's just a co-backup behind Fozzy Whittaker and sharing a spot on the depth chart with fellow true freshman Joe Bergeron, who came to Austin with a whole lot less fanfare. And for now, Brown has 86 career yards, a couple short of Williams' 6,592 in his four years at Texas.
"He’s a guy that’s learned to study his playbook really well, and he’s been coachable," Robinson said. "He’s got great examples in front of him [Whittaker and fullback Cody Johnson]. It’s great to have guys in front of you that will coach you and lead you and teach you what you need to do in practice. All through fall camp, he did really well, and now he got a chance in a game and shined."
That wasn't before his "Welcome to college football" moment, which was, admittedly, quite tame. Gideon chuckled thinking back to the first days of summer workouts with new strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie, offering only a couple scant details.
"Summer workouts in college are going to be different than summer workouts in high school," he said. "Whenever you’re running with Bennie out there in the heat, it’s definitely going to get your mind right."
Mack Brown helped Bergeron and Malcolm Brown get some time by putting them in a smaller amount packages, and Brown was even further behind after missing 10 days of fall camp with a sore hamstring.
"Probably freshman running back is one of the hardest places to play on a football team, especially when you have that many packages," Mack Brown said.
But early on, the signs are good for Malcolm Brown.
"I thought he did really well. He had good vision, he had good ball security and he ran the ball with some power," Mack Brown said.
Whatever it took, and apparently it wasn't much, Brown's mind sounds like it's right where it needs to be as he tackles his first year of college football.
Before last week's game Whittaker calmed his freshmen position mates by telling them to block out the 101,000 cheering them on and the brand-new surroundings and "just run like you did in high school."
So far, it looks like they're doing it.
"Hopefully they’ll be a big factor for us and be able to be a spark for us," Whittaker said. "Those young guys, they’re going to have a big significant role for us, and just seeing the way that they’ve played, it’s very encouraging."