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Texas Tailbacks Enter Critical Period

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Following the requisite initial Ooooh-ing and Ahhhh-ing for Fozzy Whittaker's exciting debut Saturday in El Paso, talk has now turned to what this means for Cerberus heading forward:

  • Over at Orangebloods, Chip Brown has a feature-length story on the Texas tailback trio ($) of Whittaker, Vondrell McGee, and Chris Ogbonnaya. Chip points out the coaching staff's repeated assertions the past six months that the player "with the hot hand" will play, and concludes: "The coaches have said they will play the guy with the hot hand. Whittaker is it. Period."
  • Following Tuesday's practice, Fozzy spoke with the media and shot down probes about tension among the tailbacks. "We all get along very well. We hang out at each other's houses... and all have a good sense of friendship with each other." In the same Chip Brown article as above, Colt McCoy paints a similar picture: "It goes back to the very first meeting. We knew there was potential for a problem there. The first speech from Greg Davis was, 'Bring gold home for Texas. Whatever you can do to help this team, do it.' I think that chemistry is a big reason we've been successful early."
  • Finally, as mentioned yesterday by Big Roy, the man making the big decisions--Greg Davis--is equivocating, naming all three tailbacks starters. "We looked at the depth chart and started doing that before all the injury reports arrived, but all three of them are going to play. I think that we've got three real good backs. They all bring different things."

Add it all up and what do you get? Computer error. More data needed. It's too soon to say definitively much of anything, except, I'd argue:

 

  1. To whatever extent you agree with me that the 2006 and '07 Longhorns appeared to lack something in the intangible phase of the gam--call it "team chemistry"--the early signs from this year's group are markedly better in that department. From Muschamp's intensity to the youth movement on both sides of the ball to the tailbacks' solidarity: This looks and feels like more of a Team. In football, I think that matters.
  2. As the stiffness of competition ratchets up, improvement from the running game as a whole is essential. Especially with the deep passing game a lingering question mark, Colt McCoy is going to need more help. Consider Texas' top six rushers by their stats alone:


    Attempts Yards Average TDs
    Player A 16 116 7.3 1
    Player B 18 83 4.5 1
    Player C 12 76 6.0 0
    Player D 15 57 3.7 2
    Player E 5 18 3.4 0
    Player F 6 14 1.3 0
    Team Total
    77 373
    4.6
    4

Texas' leading rusher in terms of yardage and yards per carry on the season is...

Colt McCoy? Believe it:

A = Colt McCoy
B = Vondrell McGee
C = Fozzy Whittaker
D = Cody Johnson
E = Chris Ogbonnaya
F = John Chiles

The sample size (two games against Texas' two weakest opponents) demands caution, but without going crazy, several issues stand out:

  1. John Chiles is appropriately slotted in line 'F,' which is how we'd have to grade his rushing production this season. Greg Davis is either disinterested in meaningful Chiles incorporation or, let's hope, slow playing his hand.
  2. Colt McCoy not only deserves credit for playmaking ability with his feet, his mobility is oftentimes the key factor in a successful play. With that said, if Texas finds itself leaning heavily on McCoy's feet to make things work during conference play... Dagger. Heart. (Ours)
  3. It's on Greg Davis and RB Coach Major Applewhite to answer sooner rather than later the question, "What is Vondrell McGee's ceiling in this offense?" And if the answer is the 4.0-4.5 yards per carry tailback we've seen in his first 90-some career carries, a corresponding switch to more I-Formation (not gonna happen) or as much Fozzy as his body can handle should follow. Use McGee where his talents will shine; sideline him where they won't.