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North Texas Breakdown: Tailbacks

Technical problems and Labor Day distractions now officially behind us, let's return to our breakdown of the Horns' impressive 56-7 victory over outmatched North Texas. We've already chronicled Colt McCoy's home run debut, but how about the key to Saturday's game, the tailbacks? Onward...

The Tailbacks

It's easy to forget with McCoy's impressive debut (crappy opponent caveats aside) that he need not be elite. A bit above average will more than suffice. That's because Texas returns four offensive linemen (Parenthetical: it's time we recognize that Tony Hills is an upgrade at left tackle, and with as much as he played in '05, the Horns really bring back four hogs) and two premier tailbacks, including...

My Boy! Jamaal Charles! This is normally where I'd be showing you highlight clips of Jamaal's performance on Saturday, but the technology whipped me silly on Saturday. While I succeeded in recording the game, broken down by drive, onto my computer, upon trying to edit the damned things, it's all come apart.

In any case, you'll have to rely on my words for this one. Jamaal was sublime. He wasn't flashy. He never broke a big run. But it was an absolute clinic in terrific running. His vision, patience, balance, and intelligence running the football reminds me of two players: Emmit Smith and... Vince Young.

Ho ho! Bet you didn't see that one coming? Do allow me to explain.

First, Emmit, a comp I've noted in this space before. Emmit Smith wasn't the flashiest runner you'll ever see; he didn't have Gale Sayers moves or Marshall Faulk speed. What he had was a vision for holes and a rushing intelligence that you only see in the elite of the elite. His balance, vision, and patience allowed him to rush effectively over and over and over again. He was capable of breaking the long one, and certainly wasn't lacking in physical skills, but it was the patience, vision and balance that made him so effective. Doubling the pleasure was the fact that Smith could pass block with the best, and catch passes effectively out of the backfield. Ditto Jamaal.

And that brings us to my second comp, the great Vincent Young. I wrote a long while back about Vince Young as a physical genius of sorts, and the more and more I watch My Boy Jamaal, the more and more I see some of those same gifts. On Saturday, Charles never - not once - tried to take more than was available. He barely took a hard blow (a VY-ish characteristic, as well). Vince ran in the open field far more often than Jamaal does, given the nature of their positional differences, but were they to both run in the open field, I'd wager there'd be an eery similarity. Not necessarily in style, but in method. It's not a perfect comp, but there's something there.

All told, I saw exactly what I wanted to see from Jamaal on Saturday. He was gliding about, waiting for holes, then hitting them at the right moment, in the right spots, before going down or out of bounds. I can't reasonably give him less than an A.

My view of Selvin's performance is less rosy. It wasn't a bad performance, by any stretch, and we've come a long way since the early part of last season, when Selvin was actually a net negative to the team. He's all the way back from that point, and most assuredly a net positive, but he's clearly a notch below Charles.

The good news is that he's protecting the ball well, running with some burst and quickness, and looking above average in effectiveness. Still, I'd hesitate to get carried away with the evaluations of Selvin. If he's all the way "back," then where he was to start with wasn't elite; it was "merely" very good. Nothing wrong with that at all, mind you. This is only a note in contrast with Jamaal. He's the guy we want the bulk of the carries going to against Ohio State. For now, Selvin gets a B+ for his solid body of work on Saturday. It'll take more to get an A, though.

And, of course, we must conclude with our look at Hank The Tank. Big Henry scored a touchdown, but only managed a 3.4 yard average on five carries. As fun as he is to think about, he just doesn't appear to be a true tailback. Whether it's a contact issue, or an inability to leverage his massive frame properly, I don't know. It's just clear that it's not there yet. And it may never be. We'll see. For Saturday, a middle of the road C.

And the others? There were 212 yards, and even McCoy looked good on the run. He's a lot quicker than most realize, and his 27 yard scamper was the game's longest run. The Texas rushing attack, as a whole, was above average, and about what you'd expect, but a notch below what I was hoping for. We'll give it a B+, nod contentedly, and move forward.

--PB--