First of all, it's extremely disappointing for Newton that the head injuries he suffered forced him to give up a game that he clearly loved. Despite the fact that he was far from the most talented player on the field, fans and coaches could be sure that he would not only give his best effort on the field, but that he would understand and carry out his assignments with a high level of precision.
Among the Texas running backs, he had the best vision and patience to find cutback lanes and his reliable hands out of the backfield and ability to stand up larger defenders in blitz pick up (where he probably missed no more than one or two assignments in the last two seasons) drew favorable comparisons to Chris Ogbonnaya. He wasn't fast, or anything approaching fast -- he was simply a solid contributor.
In the short term, Newton's retirement and the Fozzy Whittaker's stinger leave the Longhorns a little bit short-handed at running back, particularly with the coaching staff understandably unwilling to burn the redshirts on Jeremy Hills and Traylon Shead. A position that looked extremely crowded before fall camp has now emptied out quicky with Chris Whaley's move to H-back, Demarco Cobbs ending up on defense, and Vondrell McGee missing his senior season due to academics.
Well, Chris Whaley will work some there. We’ll work Ryan Roberson in some. When Cody [Johnson] went down the other night, we had to make a quick change and move Roberson to tailback, and he scored. So, with Whaley and Roberson, they’ll be the ones. D.J. Monroe will do some things there, but at this time, we will not take a redshirt off.
The expectations for Whaley are incredibly low at this point, especially after seeing his lack of ability to change direction on Nebraska's punt return for a touchdown, but it may at least be instructive to see how bad he looks. Giving Roberson carries is an absolute stop-gap measure, as there is little likelihood that he will touch the ball more than a handful of times after this season andhe may even end up back at linebacker if the 2011 kids aren't ready to contribute, especially if Tevin Jackson can't get his transcript issues resolved (d@#% you, Brian Davis).
That brings us to DJ Monroe, one of the greatest symbols of the often inexplicable nature of the offense this season. What Davis probably means is that Monroe will practice some there, then will stand on the sidelines during the game. Everyone's favorite offensive coordinator expounded on Monroe a bit more:
D.J. is still a guy who is a little bit of a specialist, but he is becoming more and more in that role. And part of it depends on that game and how it is flowing, and what we’re trying to do in the game and how the other guys are playing. But Chris worked there all of last spring, so he has some foundation there. Ryan is a guy that even though he has not worked at the tailback very much, we started giving him some pass protection stuff last week, and he has been getting reps there. And we think Fozzy [Whittaker] will be fine, so we will see how that all plays out.
Once again, it sounds like Davis is setting the stage for more excuses when Monroe either doesn't play this weekend or gets little opportunity. Even though Monroe is apparently picking up more of the offense, that hasn't been enough to get him on the field the last two weeks.
The second comment is absolutely laughable. We've heard comments like this from Davis before about the "flow of the game," which seems to mean that if Texas gets behind, then Monroe can't play because at that point Davis wants to see if he can throw the ball 60 times a game. And the object clearly isn't to score touchdowns, so with that being the objective, it would be a terrible decision to put the most explosive player on offense into the game. After all, he could score from any point on the field and that wouldn't be good.
The rest of the paragraph simply reads as more build up to having excuses for Monroe not playing. Since Texas seems intent on falling behind in about every game, the guys who can pass protect will probably have a chance to play and Monroe will continue to stand on the sidelines, no doubt wondering what he did to deserve this treatment and planning his exit from the program.
Take a longer term view, the obvious question is if the Longhorns will attempt to recruit another running back in the 2011 class. Newton should be granted a medical hardship, which would keep his scholarship from counting against the limit of 85 next season. The problem is that it's late in the process now and all the top running backs have already committed, which makes it somewhat disappointing that the staff didn't more actively pursue Aaron Green, though he seemed ticketed for Nebraska for some time.
Since all the best players are committed, if the staff decides to send out feelers, it makes sense to do so to the top players. It will surprise no one who frequents this community that the preference here is to go after Brandon Williams. According to Recruitocosm, Williams was a guy the staff wanted at safety for some unknown reason, resulting in his early commitment to Baylor, a school that is still apparently pursuing him. Texas hasn't made any contact to this point, but the source feels that Williams would be receptive if the Longhorns came calling.
With Williams predictably vaulting up the recruiting rankings and earning a fifth star -- a major accomplishment at this point -- it would make absolutely no sense not to put out some feelers, especially if there is a chance to keep him away from a major rival like Oklahoma.
Beyond Williams and Green, any other potential target would project as having significantly less impact, even a talented running back like Kenny Williams. Of course, the farther down the list the coaches travel, the more likely the players become to de-commit from their current coaches. Stay tuned.