The deepest position group for the Texas Longhorns added another scholarship player on Tuesday with the move of redshirt sophomore linebacker Jaden Hullaby to running back, head coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed after Hullaby was spotted at his new position during a portion of practice open to the media.
“We moved him to running back today and we’re gonna do that here for the interim,” Sarkisian said. “I want to see what that looks like — he’s a big physical athlete.”
A 6’2, 237-pounder, Hullaby immediately becomes the biggest running back on the Texas roster at almost 20 pounds heavier than Roschon Johnson and 54 pounds heavier than Keilan Robinson.
“In our system, the running back position is critical and if we can find another guy — he’s built a little bit like Roschon that way — that can maybe develop into that role,” Sarkisian said.
How the Longhorns might actually use Hullaby wasn’t apparent from Sarkisian’s comments on Tuesday, as the Texas head coach declined to answer whether Hullaby might be used as a hybrid player capable of blocking as an H-back or even in the type of two-running back sets that wide receivers coach Brennan Marion liked to use in his Go-Go offense.
“Today he was at running back,” Sarkisian said.
Given the depth at the position — wide receiver Jordan Whittington justifiably called it the best running back room in the country — it’s not entirely clear what Hullaby adds beyond size. Texas had bigger running backs like Gabriel Watson and Daniel Young last year and never used them in short-yardage situations.
Perhaps the move is more of an admission of Hullaby’s lack of impact at linebacker.
A consensus three-star prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, Hullaby played quarterback and running back in high school, but was recruited as a linebacker and H-back by some schools despite projections that favored him at running back.
Hullaby spent the last two seasons at Texas playing linebacker, appearing in the final two games mostly on special teams as a freshman before failing to see the field in 2021 under the new coaching staff. This spring, there wasn’t any buzz around Hullaby despite the lack of inside linebackers on the roster and the move of former walk-on Jett Bush from the edge to the second level probably further buried Hullaby on the depth chart.
Aside from the intriguing potential of a hybrid role, Hullaby’s best fit may be as a short-yardage running back or someone with the height and mass to serve as an effective pass protector on third downs or shot plays.
It’s just hard to see him breaking into the rotation at running back with so much proven talent.