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Explosive Texas Longhorns RB D'Onta Foreman is already historically productive

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The sophomore is emerging as one of the best game-breaking rushers in Longhorns history, but there's still room for improvement.

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Give a defensive back an angle in the open field against a 240-pound running back and most good Power 5 defenders would seem to have the advantage.

Not so against Texas Longhorns sophomore running back D'Onta Foreman, who is increasingly making a habit of breaking off long, explosive runs with his deceptive speed that is reported in the 4.4 range despite his mass.

Against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday, Foreman proved that his 81-yard run against the Oklahoma Sooners and his 93-yard run against the Kansas Jayhawks last week weren't flukes by racing 65 yards for a key early touchdown in Morgantown.

Check out the West Virginia cornerback on the backside of the play who gradually has to bend out his angle until it's clear he has no chance to catch Foreman on a play that would have gone as far as the field would allow.

Someone might want to send out a memo to Big 12 defenders that Foreman is faster than he looks. Or not is cool, too.

The run against Kansas was the third-longest in school history and the big-time Cotton Bowl romp sits tied for No. 11, giving him as many runs of 81 or more yards as Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell combined. If that wasn't enough to impress, even former superstar Jamaal Charles has a hard time matching Foreman's body of work after only one season of Foreman receiving back-up carries.

Think about that for a second.

Charles needed 533 career carries to turn in two runs of 80 or more yards and another run of 75 yards. In only 111 career carries, Foreman already has three runs of 65 yards or more.

The speed is remarkable, Foreman consistently runs hard to create yards after contact, and he has natural instincts in the open field to turn chunk runs into historically-significant efforts. In fact, his decisions in the open field right now are much better than anything senior Johnathan Gray has shown in his Texas career, despite his own record-setting aptitude to get those choices right in high school.

However, Foreman still has some room to grow as a player and a running back. His quick weight gain at Texas to go from a listed 215 pounds on National Signing Day 2014 to 241 pounds now hasn't all been because of hard work in the weight room -- there's some noticeable bad weight around his midsection that could be contributing to concerns about his conditioning.

Head coach Charlie Strong loves his work ethic, suggesting that Foreman's issue could be with his eating habits. Early in his career, Malcolm Brown was much the same way before adjusting his diet and dropping weight, so there is recent precedent at the position for these changes. Best of all, while Brown's weight loss never helped him address his big-play issues, Foreman is already proven in that regard.

The key is that Foreman still needs to work on improving his two weakest traits as a running back -- his short-area quickness and his ability to change direction. With the Horns running more outside zone for Foreman to highlight his speed, there's a premium on one-cut ability. In other words, it requires him to be able to stick his foot in the ground and hit a seam.

His 93-yard run against Kansas was impressive for his speed in the open field, but right now he has to round off his outside cuts and has limited ability to alter his course when in the hole, in large part because of his mass and the fact that he doesn't have an exceptionally low center of gravity compared to backs who are several inches shorter.

In forecasting his potential for his final two seasons of eligibility, the fact that Foreman can both improve his conditioning and sharpen his ability to maximize runs means he's on track to become one of the most explosive ball carriers in Texas Longhorns history.

Check that -- he actually is already.