Breakout performances by Texas Longhorns sophomore running back D'Onta Foreman in the last two games haven't helped him displace senior Johnathan Gray, who is still taking the first-team reps in practice, according to Foreman.
Head coach Charlie Strong said Monday that the two will continue to split carries, but those hoping for Foreman to take on an even bigger role in the offense will likely remain disappointed, even as it's becoming increasingly clear that Foreman is a better option than the senior.
Against TCU, Foreman was one of the few bright spots in going over 100 yards rushing for the first time in career. After posting 112 yards on his 18 carries in Fort Worth, the 6'0, 241-pounder turned in the most crucial play of the game against Oklahoma when he took a sprint draw 81 yards for the team's longest run in three years. Foreman finished with a career-high 117 yards on only nine carries.
The last time a Texas running back broke the 100-yard mark in consecutive games? Malcolm Brown did it three times to close out the 2013 season. Gray has only five 100-yard rushing games in his career, but did manage to accomplish the feat in consecutive games against Kansas and Texas Tech during his freshman season.
As a person, leader, and teammate, Gray's approach to the game has always been beyond reproach. He understands how to pass protect and runs hard, but Foreman's production is beginning to far outstripe that of his older teammate -- he has 43 more rushing yards than Gray despite 23 fewer carries. Beyond the raw numbers, Foreman is currently averaging 6.8 highlight yards per opportunity compared to 3.4 for Gray. Basically, he's twice as productive after the first five yards, which are credited to the offensive line in that metric.
From a skill standpoint, the differences between the two are significant. Foreman is two inches taller than Gray and weighs 30 pounds more, making it much easier for him to pick up extra yardage when he drives his legs on contact. And in the open field, Foreman has the advantage, too -- Strong said Monday that most people don't realize how fast he is, but it's obvious on film and the sophomore confirmed rumblings that he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash this summer. By comparison, Gray ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at The Opening in 2012.
So Foreman is both more likely to gain extra yardage when the offensive line doesn't do a particularly good job blocking and has the explosiveness to blow up angles so that a 40-yard run turns into an 80-yard run.
The only real question with Foreman right now is whether he has the conditioning to carry the ball 20 times a game every week, as it appeared that he ran out of gas late on his run against Oklahoma. However, even if that is the case, it seems like an incomplete explanation as to why Gray received 22 carries against the Sooners to the nine for Foreman.
For now, Foreman will just have to make the most of his limited opportunities until the coaches finally decide that he needs to receive more of the carries that are currently going to Gray.