A great running back can cure a lot that ails an offense.
Just ask 2016 Doak Walker Award winner D’Onta Foreman, whose 2,028 yards in 11 games carried the Texas offense to respectability two seasons ago.
With Foreman gone last season, the Horns rushed for 2,174 yards as a team and averaged 3.6 yards per carry, far south of the 6.3 that Foreman averaged. With him in the backfield, the Horns always had a slugger’s chance. But Texas’ poor play was a huge factor in head coach Charlie Strong being relieved of duty even though Foreman had established himself as a premier college back that year.
Spring ahead to Wednesday. Strong’s successor, Tom Herman, landed a real gem in Carthage’s Keaontay Ingram. who rushed for more than 6,000 yards with 83 touchdowns in his prep career. Texas had issues on offense last fall, from inconsistent play at quarterback to an underachieving receiving corps and a banged-up offensive line. The running backs were average at best, but Ingram brings a degree of upside not seen around these parts for quite some time.
Remember, Foreman wasn’t thought to be a game-changer when he was recruited. His twin brother Armanti Foreman was more coveted at the time.
Ingram could have gone anywhere he wanted but liked the recruiting spiel he got from Herman and assistant coach Derek Warehime, who’s in charge of the East Texas area.
“It’s the type of energy that hasn’t been there in a long time,” Ingram told East Texas Sports Network. “It doesn’t look too good right now, but all the recruits are on the same page and have the same mindset: To go in there and change the program around.”
Game changers can eventually become program changers, and that quote came straight out of Alpha Dog 101. As a result, I couldn’t resist asking Herman on Wednesday whether the 2018 expectation was for Ingram to be “the guy” in the backfield.
“That’s not fair to the guys that are bleeding and sweating right now for us and have in the past,” Herman replied. “Every one of these guys, all 27 of them, at some point in their career we expect them to be the guy or we wouldn’t sign you at Texas.
“But to your point, there is definitely a need at that position to get better. Whether that’s the development of Danny Young, Kyle Porter, Toneil Carter, Tristian Houston, great, great, we’re getting better. If that’s the infusion of a Keaontay Ingram, great, we’re going to get better.”
Trust me, friends. The question came from a good place. We all remember when Johnathan Gray signed in 2012 after rolling up 10,899 career prep yards and 205 total touchdowns, Longhorn Nation thought they had finally landed the first home-run hitter at the position since Jamaal Charles left early for the NFL. Gray was beset by injuries and didn’t come close living up the legend he created in high school.
Now it’s Ingram’s turn.
As for that “the guy” label … to be continued.