Free. this. man. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
Poor Donald Junior. After two seasons in the Greg Davis doghouse, there seemed little question that new co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin would free junior running back DJ Monroe, perhaps the poster boy for poor utilization by the Texas staff in 2010. Particularly galling were the excuses that Davis would trot out for why he couldn't put the ball in the hands of a player who looked for all the world like a big play waiting to happen every time he touched it.
Unfortunately, the chorus of complaints about Monroe receiving only occasional carries never subsided under Harsin, as Monroe continued to play only a small role in the offense despite consistent production in line with the tantalizing production provided in flashes in 2009 and 2010. Most disturbingly, Harsin started to make his own excuses about why he couldn't get Monroe the ball, some which sounding suspiciously like those used by Davis.
Here's the most recent edition, from the Monday press availability:
Some of the schemes that we have utilized him in, we continue to do that. We just have to do more of that. You look at what he has done when you get a chance to go back and look at some of your stats at the end of they year before you go into the bowl game, and he is a guy [where we want to] get the ball in his hands. It is about finding creative ways to try and do that and allow them the opportunity to get in space. That is where he does well. It's just how we can do that and get him the ball and those ways, whether it's throwing it or handing the ball off to him. We got to figure it out.
Following the injury to Fozzy Whittaker against Missouri, it became clear that Monroe needed a threat at the running back position in the Wildcat and wasn't particularly effective as a traditional running back either, gaining only 44 yards on 13 carries -- 3.4 yards per carry, about half of his career mark.
Then, just when it looked like Monroe's ability to pick up those seven yards per carry might be in serious jeopardy, the diminutive speedster broke off a 51-yard run against Baylor that reminded everyone of just how close he is to breaking a big run on any given play.
Those nine touches against Baylor represented a season high for Monroe, who responded with his longest run since the C sweep against Oklahoma that resulted in a 60-yard touchdown run, one of only two rushing plays for the Longhorns in 2010 that went for more than 40 yards.
Given that feature back Malcolm Brown has a long run of only 27 yards this season, it's seems more than mildly ridiculous that there's still a need for this conversation, especially since there are the systematic signs that Bryan Harsin just doesn't get it, as there were with Davis. Add on the fact that the offense as a whole has struggled to create explosive plays and the lack of touches for Monroe becomes even more ludicrous.
Time is running out on the season to figure out ways to get Monroe the football. Texas fans can only hope that the next few days are fruitful in that search.
Again, and for what hopefully is the last time, Bryan Harsin, free DJ Monroe.