During Monday’s press conference previewing spring practice for the Texas Longhorns, the first name that head coach Tom Herman when asked a questions about the running backs was a surprising one.
No, not junior Kirk Johnson, who is working his way back from another surgery in the hopes of playing again.
How about Tristian Houston?
“I tell you, the guy that’s had a really good offseason is Tristian Houston. I’m looking forward to seeing him putting pads on,” Herman said.
For those who don’t remember, the Galena Park North Shore product was one of the first pledges after head coach Charlie Strong arrived in 2014. While Houston held offers from schools like Arkansas, LSU, Maryland, and Mississippi State and was considered a solid three-star prospect by the time he signed in 2015, he was difficult to project in college because he mostly carried the ball on jet sweeps.
Since arriving at Texas, the 6’0, 210-pounder in two games during his three years, carrying the ball three times for three yards against UTEP in 2016. He hasn’t ever appeared on special teams and missed the Orange-White game last year due to an ankle injury suffered in late March.
Once Houston returned in the fall, he didn’t exactly challenge the other running backs ahead of him on the depth chart.
“He was a guy that didn’t merit a whole lot of touches last year but came in in bowl practice and really turned some heads in a positive way and has followed that up with a good offseason,” Herman said.
Before bowl practices, which didn’t include Chris Warren III after his transfer from the program, Houston served as the scout team quarterback when the ‘Horns needed someone to simulate running quarterbacks like Maryland’s Tyrell Pigrome and Kansas State’s Jesse Ertz.
So, does Houston have a chance to finally make a dent on the depth chart this spring? Apparently that’s possible, but it’s just as possible, if not more likely, that Herman was simply challenging younger running backs like Daniel Young and Toneil Carter to continue to mature.
“I think we all know that we’ve got to get better at that position and so, like any position, there is no incumbent,” Herman said.