Entering his sophomore campaign, expectations are high for Texas Longhorns running back Keaontay Ingram, who showed flashes of his raw talent and rushed for nearly 800 yards as a freshman, despite missing time due to nagging injuries.
Now healthier and heavier after adding approximately 15 pounds to his frame throughout the offseason, it was Ingram who earned recognition as ESPN’s under-the-radar star expected to blossom for the Horns in 2019.
“The Longhorns have been reliant on quarterback Sam Ehlinger for a running game over the past two years. To take pressure off Ehlinger and keep him healthy, Texas needs Ingram, a promising sophomore, to help supply more of a steady ground game from the running back position,” said ESPN’s Jake Trotter.
Texas, mind you, comes in at No. 7 in the latest edition of “Texas is back, folks!” in this ESPN Top 25 list.
In Ingram, the Longhorns have a running back that could very well be the first feature running back to have tremendous success since D’Onta Foreman in 2016, which snapped the running back drought Texas suffered through since the days of Jamaal Charles. While names like Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, premiere high school running backs with high upside and a lot of expectations, have come and gone, the Longhorns are still searching for a threat out of the backfield that, as Trotter suggests, will demand the respect of the defense and create more opportunities for the offense both in the air and on the ground.
The Texas offense is deep with upperclassmen and talented freshman, but for all intents and purposes, this is Ingram’s job to lose. This is Ingram’s backfield. Ingram rushed for only three touchdowns and 708 yards on 142 attempts in 2018, but it’s quite likely the then-freshman would have surpassed, or at least come close, to 1,000 yards had he stayed healthy.
Not to mention, all of the above took place with Ingram largely serving as a backup to grad transfer Tre Watson.
This is going to be a pivotal year for the Texas comeback. Defensively, there are many questions to be answered by the players stepping in to take over key positions that have been vacated due to graduation and the NFL Draft.
But there is much to be said about a team with an offense like the one the Longhorns have at their fingertips. If Ingram can emerge as a solid feature back for Texas, he could not only rush for more than 1,000 yards and 10 or more touchdowns, but Ehlinger could have an even better season than he did in 2018 when he accumulated 41 total touchdowns, as the passing game would certainly benefit as a byproduct of an improved ground game.
If Texas is going to take the next step, win the Big 12 Championship, and be in the College Football Playoff conversation, Ingram is going to have as much to do with that as Ehlinger will.