Last Tuesday, as heavy rain soaked the campus area, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman came away frustrated with his team’s ball security.
“We’ve got to do a job getting our guys right and protecting the football,” he said. “Again, as I’ve told you guys many times, there are two demands in this program and that’s effort and ball security. We’ve got to figure out a way to do a better job protecting the football.”
The problems continued a trend from last season, when running backs Daniel Young and Toneil Carter fumbled three times on 134 carries. This spring, even before Herman’s frustrations surfaced publicly, he praised junior running back Tristian Houston as a seemingly pointed statement towards Young and Carter. Junior linebacker Cameron Townsend moved over to the offense as part of “open tryouts” at the position.
So, the excitement that the staff felt about signing Carthage running back Keaontay Ingram back in February is now magnified. And that’s not a small statement considering that Texas hadn’t landed the state’s top running back since Johnathan Gray in 2012.
When asked on the Longhorn Network about how much of an immediate impact Ingram can have on the program, Herman replied, “Hopefully a ton.”
After Texas averaged 3.6 yards per carry last season as a team and failed to push a single running back past the 400-yard mark, Herman knows that the Longhorns have to improve there, and he doesn’t really care where that improvement comes from.
“If it comes from Keaontay Ingram showing up and getting some quality playing time, great, but one way or another, we’ve got to get better at that position. And we think Keaontay has a chance to provide us that.”
Ingram will arrive at Texas this summer as a 2018 US Under Armour All-American, a consensus four-star prospect, and the nation’s No. 6 running back, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Oh yeah, and he’s also a back-to-back state champion who gained more than 2,500 yards and scored 69 touchdowns during those two seasons.
With nearly 500 receiving yards and four touchdowns as a junior, Ingram is also a running back with experience catching the ball out of the backfield, so he’s hardly a one-dimensional player.
In that regard, as well as in his traits carrying the football, he provides a nice mix of the qualities that make Young and Carter promising players, despite those issues with fumbles.
“He’s a little bit like Toneil in that he’s elusive... he’s probably a blend of those two young guys. He’s got pretty good elusiveness like Toneil, but he can run between the tackles, put his pads down and break some arm tackles, too, like Daniel.”
At 6’1 and 190 pounds, Ingram is a little bit tall and rangy compared to the ideal build for a running back, as 247Sports recruiting analyst Gabe Brooks describes in the video above, but he can lower his pads and make defenders miss in small spaces.
Ingram doesn’t waste much effort in hitting his aiming points, whether it’s between the tackles or to the outside and also shows the lateral quickness to bounce runs to the edge when defenses create congestion around the line of scrimmage.
Some defenders got hurdled, while others struggled to beat him to the corner of the end zone — Ingram doesn’t have any testing times available and likely doesn’t have elite speed, but he did show the ability to finish plays with touchdowns. Hence his 85 career rushing touchdowns.
To find success at Texas, Ingram will have to continue to emphasize his pad level while he works to gain the mass that will help him translate his tackle-breaking ability to the next level. And there are questions about whether he has the top-end speed to become a consistent big-play threat.
Still, he’s a decisive runner who hits top speed quickly, with good feet, good vision, and some tackle-breaking ability.
The big storylines here are that the hype surrounding Ingram is warranted, as he’s excellent insurance in case Young and Carter struggle to improve this spring, and plays a position that typically translates quickly to collegiate success.