The running back position should be one of strength for Texas, even if it doesn't have ideal depth.
Departures: DJ Monroe, Ryan Roberson
Projected depth chart:
Storyline: Last spring, head coach Mack Brown challenged Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown to stay healthy during their sophomore seasons, something that didn't happen during their first season on the 40 Acres. And while Bergeron battled through a shoulder injury sustained against Ole Miss, Brown was not able to do so with an ankle spring suffered the following game -- he eventually returned, but was mostly out of the rotation, even in the Alamo Bowl, when he carried the ball only four times for eight yards.
Can Brown make it through the spring without incurring any injuries and then carry that into the 2013 football season?
Battle to watch: After ascending to the starting role primarily due to the aforementioned injuries, sophomore back Johnathan Gray looks like the frontrunner to continue as the lead back in 2013, leaving a battle between Bergeron and Brown for the primary back-up position.
Plenty of Texas fans are interested to see if Bergeron ends up at fullback, but the depth there probably precludes the move after the 'Horns failed to land a 2013 running back and the news that Little Elm back Ke'aun Kinner didn't get a qualifying score on his SAT puts all the pressure on his ACT score to allow him to qualify.
Expect Brown to take over the back-up duties since he has better vision than Bergeron and more explosiveness -- Bergeron only had one run over 20 yards in 2012, which came in the opener against Wyoming.
Overview: On paper, the 'Horns had the potential to trot out one of the top running back groups in the country last season, but the injury to Brown, the lack of a breakout season from Bergeron that many expected, and the odd decision not to use Monroe or Johnson much made for something of a disappointing season overall.
Throw in the fact that Gray never quite provided the home-run ability that was expected and it's clear that a step forward needs to be taken by the backs, though the offensive line was also culpable for some of the lack of success, if not Gray's lack of elite explosiveness in terms of long runs. The Aledo product had only two gains of more than 30 yards all season.
Also, Johnson needs to keep himself out of trouble and on point in the classroom because Texas can't afford to miss him for any stretch of time next season. He did tweet that it was cold in class on Monday, so at least he made it.
Last season, the anxiety-inducing situation was hoping that the offensive tackles could make it through spring, summer, and fall without injuries. Now it all revolves around Johnson and his maturity.