Next up is a look at the running backs. Included in this will be Vince Young, since he's as good a runner as he is passer. Along with primary statistics, each runner will be evaluated with labels we're defining as "Emmitt" (consistent, solid running), "Fumble" (how prone they are to fumbles, 1=not prone; 5=very prone), "Pass Block" (ability to pick up blocks), "Explosiveness," "Receiving" (pass-catching abilities), and "Importance" (importance in Rose Bowl) where 1 is the worst and 5 the best.
Vince Young 136 rushes, 850 yards, 6.25 yards per carry, 9 TDs
Pass Block: N/A
The most dangerous quarterback in the country because of this ability to run. Vince's only Achilles heel is his tendency to try to do too much when the play isn't there, but it's a price you pay to get the kinds of big plays he makes. When he's on with his running (see: Michigan Rose Bowl, Oklahoma State), he's the most dynamic player in the country (even more than that Reggie Bush kid). When he's not (see: Texas A&M, 2nd/3rd Quarter of Ohio State), he gives Horns fans heart attacks. The most important player in the Rose Bowl, period.
Jamaal Charles 114 rushes, 867 yards, 7.4 yards per carry, 11 TDs
Pass Block: 4
The best thing about the seventeen weeks off between the end of the regular season and the Rose Bowl is the time it will give Charles to heal the ankle he injured against Oklahoma. He was never the same runner after that, but Horns fans shouldn't forget how good he had been prior to that injury. He was, quite literally, step for step with Reggie Bush, at least statistically, until he got hurt. Charles doesn't have the elusiveness or otherworldly breakaway ability of Bush, but he runs better between the tackles and is as good an all-around tailback as Texas has had in its backfield in a long time. His health and effectiveness are absolutely pivotal to the Horns' chances. Watch him, and how the coaches use him, closely early in the game.
Ramonce Taylor 72 rushes, 530 yards, 7.0 yards per carry, 11 TDs
Pass Block: 3
His ability to step in when Charles and Selvin Young got hurt were valuable in helping the Horns seal the perfect regular season, but he's not the every down back that Charles is. Still, he has breakaway speed and adds a very nice receiving option for Greg Davis to work with. Taylor caught 25 passes for 268 yards, including 3 TDs, on the year. He and Charles make a fine 1-2 punch for the rushing attack.
Henry "Hank the Tank" Melton 87 rushes, 434 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 10 TDs
Pass Block: 3
For being a 270 pound tailback, Melton's quick feet surprise you. He's a Jerome Bettis of sorts, though he hasn't learned to leverage his body the way The Bus has for all these years. Still, he's a good guy to have around when you're trying to hammer away for a yard or two, though you'd like him to be more effective than he is, considering his size.
Selvin Young 89 rushes, 441 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 7 TDs
Pass Block: 5
The Burnt Orange Nation whipping boy early in the year, Selvin actually finished the year pretty strong and appeared to regain some of his old quickness that he had lost from his devastating ankle injuries. Still, we're weary of Young as anything more than an experienced back that can come in to spell the younger guys. Five to seven rushes seems appropriate, plus some third down pass blocking when needed. Mack would be wise not to lean too heavily on Young in the Rose Bowl.
The Texas Rushing Attack 569 rushes, 3550 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, 50 TDs
Pass Block: 4
Since Texas spread the ball around so much between all these capable runners, we thought it would be instructive to look at the Horns rushing attack as a whole. Averaging nearly six yards per carry, the Horns run the ball as well as anyone in the country, and their ability to do so against USC will be very important for the overall gameplan. We'll be watching very closely to see how Greg Davis handles what Pete Carroll throws at the Horns. Davis has a reputation for tightening things up in the big games, and we expect that Carroll will be aiming to shut down the run first and foremost. If Texas can get the running game going anyway, Texas will put points on the board and we'll likely have ourselves a shootout. If the Trojans stuff the run, we're going to be asking Vince to do an awful lot, perhaps more than even he can handle. The real key here, in my opinion, is whether Jamaal Charles is fully healthy and effective. If he is, I like our offense to be every bit as good as USC's. If not, we'll need to be creative and hope Vince is feeling it with his arm.