Texas desperately seeking 2013 running back

Texas has struggled to find a running back since Kyle Hicks (left) decommitted - Becca Earhart

It's been about a month and a half since the 'Horns lost running back Kyle Hicks to the Horned Frogs, but little progress has yet been made.

Alex Collins, Corey Clements, Keith Ford, Corion Webster, Mark Dodson, Trevorris Johnson.

Just a handful of the running backs Texas has reached out to in recent weeks with little to no success.

Now throw in Ohio State commit Ezekiel Elliott, who was offered on Tuesday evening, but is unlikely to set foot on campus at Texas.

And Ole Miss commit Peyton Barber, who went to Tennessee last weekend instead of Texas and has now cancelled his planned weekday trip to Austin. The consensus three-star running back's mother went to Tennessee, so it appears that there is family pressure to keep him close to his Georgia home.

That leaves the list of failed names at the top, with TCU commit Trevorris Johnson, a strong, well-built back with a speed of speed from Alief Taylor who was a bit underrecruited before landing with the Horned Frogs, a slight possibility after coaches stopped by his school the other day. Texas may have also reached out to Oregon State commit Damien Haskins with no success.

It appears that the top backs in the state have rebuffed Texas advances, with Oregon commit Dontre Wilson also a part of that list. He'll visit Ohio State and Oklahoma State, but so far Texas hasn't been able to make any progress in getting him to campus, despite an initial report from Claude Mathis that Wilson would take a weekday visit.

It all stems from the decommitment of Kyle Hicks back in early December, which threw a complete wrench into plans at the position. Locked in for some time after his February pledge, rumors that he was looking around surfaced throughout the fall, but it seems that the Texas coaching staff was confident enough about keeping him committed that they didn't look to create any other relationships.

Relationships that weren't formed during the early part of the process, either.

Wilson, looked at as an all-purpose back, was the only offer in the state after Keith Ford declined to come to a Junior Day because he's never really liked Texas that much and James White probably wasn't going to get an offer, so he didn't show up to the second Junior Day and later committed to Texas A&M.

As a result, recruiting at the position was limited to Wilson and Hicks, so guys like Corion Webster and Trevorris Johnson never received enough attention to strongly consider Texas, though, as mentioned above, it does not yet appear that Johnson has ruled out the 'Horns.

The 'Horns looked set so early with Hicks in a year when it took a little later in the spring for recruits like Webster and Johnson to really emerge as well-regarded prospects. Katy's Adam Taylor, now committed to Nebraska, was coming off an ACL injury.

Right now, the best shot may be for Little Elm's Ke'aun Kinner to score well on his upcoming ACT to qualify, in which case the 'Horns could add him after Signing Day if he gets his academics in order. But even at that point, Kinner's academic struggles in high school would make him an eligibility concern in college.

So do the Longhorns really need a running back in the class?

Yes, for depth purposes, Texas needs to take a running back, hence all the scrambling and flurry of expressions of interest and offers. It's not like new running back coach Larry Porter has a healthy appetite for rejection considering how little of it he had to deal with while at LSU.

It wouldn't be an absolute disaster not to find a running back either, though. Well, probably wouldn't be a disaster, with some amount of injury luck next season.

The problem is that both Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown have been banged up at times, leaving their ability to stay healthy for a full season in doubt, though Bergeron managed to play through his shoulder contusion sustained against Ole Miss, even if it did appear to limit him for a few weeks. Brown is the bigger concern after an ankle injury kept him out for most of the conference season, bringing up more questions about his threshold for pain.

Don't sleep on the loss of Jeremy Hills either, who was good in the screen game and on third down in general -- his steady presence will be missed, even if he only gained 33 yards on the ground as a senior.

And Texas coaches may be reticent to place a greater load on Daje Johnson at running back, since he doesn't seem completely reliable at this point in terms of his maturity level.

To feel comfortable next season, the coaches want to have four pure running backs on the roster, so any move of Joe Bergeron to fullback probably won't happen, even if Larry Porter can unearth someone. At this point, it doesn't even have to be a home-run find, just someone who can provide depth until Daniel Gresham and Donald Catalon get to campus.

Will it be Kinner or will Texas have to keep on working down the list of state and national running backs until someone finally bites? The 'Horns have already buzzed through a great deal of both lists and time is running out.

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