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Looking Ahead: The Tailbacks

Now that the draft is -finally- behind us we can refocus our attention on things pertaining to current Longhorns. At least until we get word that Pete Carrolll just got busted for doing PCP off of a tranny hooker's fake tits. Until then, though, back to the Longhorns.

Today's topic: the running backs.

Texas finished last season second in rushing, thanks in part to that Vince Young guy, and in larger part to a sustained, lethal attack from a flurry of diverse rushers. The great news is that they're all returning for 2006. In order of least to most significant:

Henry "Hank The Tank" Melton  Seriously, why can't this nickname stick? Longhorn fans, use this often; it's a great name. The ginormous rusher had a gaudier freshman season statistics-wise than performance-wise. Finishing with about a dozen touchdowns looks good and gets you labeled as a "goal line back," the kind of guy teams can "count on to pick up those tough few yards." Problem is, in reality Hank wasn't very good at short yardage situations. He was about as good in the short yardage situations as -anybody- would have been. He showed an inability to find holes and, most problematic, failed to leverage his huge frame particularly well, resulting in awkward lunges that ended with him flopping across a pile of bodies. He left his feet far too often, diving at the marker when he should have been lowering his shoulder to do some serious bowling. He just doesn't look like a natural rusher, despite his rather fluid running style for such a big body. The coaches surely get this, and a position switch is in the works. He'll get some chances this year to make improvements as a rusher, but if they don't come, the switch to defensive end will be permanent. It's make or break time for big Henry.

Ramonce Taylor It's not entirely clear that Taylor will even be with the team this fall. He's teetering on the brink of academic inelligibility and the coaches sent him home this spring to work on his grades. If he's not serious about improving, he won't be back with the team. As deep as Texas is at tailback and wide receiver, it won't matter. Taylor is sometimes tabbed as a poor man's Reggie Bush. It's a poor comparison. Reggie Bush is a versatile tailback that you can use as a receiver, is lightning fast, and has terrific running instincts. Ramonce Taylor is just a pure speed runner that you can use in the backfield or in the slot. His running instincts are average, at best. Still, he's a useful player and -is- legitimately fast, but I don't envision him as the starter or primary rusher. The coaches seem to share my sentiments, and Greg Davis did a really nice job last year of using Taylor in a mixture of roles that utilized his breakaway speed. If he gets his act together in the classroom (I am skeptical), he'll return to be an interesting component of a diverse offense.

Selvin Young You gotta feel good for Selvin. After a sophomore season lost to severe ankle problems, and a miserable rehab at the beginning of his junior year that saw him nearly give the game away to Ohio State, Selvin worked hard and, by season's end, was the second best rusher on the team. In the Rose Bowl, he was asked to be the solid, steady presence and he responded with a very nice game. While the future is Jamaal Charles, Selvin has returned to close to his old form. From all accounts, he looks healthy and quick this spring and will be ready to split the heavy lifting with Jamaal Charles. While his days as a potential star seem to have passed, he's a good bet to rush for 1,000 yards and 10 TDs if he stays healthy.

Jamaal Charles Only the myriad options at tailback is standing between this guy and a Heisman trophy. As is, the Horns will split carries among these four horses, but Charles is clearly the jewel of the bunch. He's shifty, reads the defense well, is surprisingly difficult to tackle, understands running angles and uses his blockers... I could go on. In fact, I will. He picks up the blitz incredibly well, has great hands that allow him to be used as a pass catching threat, and doesn't seem intimidated by anyone or anything. Just a remarkable talent. The only trouble Charles had was a late season case of Fumbilitis, but it seemed to come out of nowhere, and I don't expect it to be a recurring problem. He's on his way to a terrific sophomore season and a gigantic junior season in which he'll contend for the Heisman.

In the end, there's no such thing as "too much" depth at running back. The Horns are on their way to leading the nation in rushing. Count on it.