The Dotted Line: Texas plans to add quality depth to talented running backs room
Texas is breaking in a new quarterback and head coach. There are question marks throughout the offensive roster, but the running back position looks like a strong point for the Longhorns thanks to a two-headed monster that flourished over the last half of the 2020 season.
New head coach Steve Sarkisian is considered an offensive guru who helped Alabama become a hotbed for quarterbacks and wide receivers, but the Crimson Tide always knew the value of running the football. At Texas, he’ll need that running game early and often as his passing attack finds rhythm.
The state of Texas is loaded with running back talent in the 2022 cycle. The Longhorns are still in the mix to land LJ Johnson or Camar Wheaton with national signing day set for Feb. 3.
The state of the Longhorns' running backs:
FYI: Five stars, from Salpointe Catholic in Tuscon, Ariz.; ranked 15th nationally, No. 1-ranked running back in the class of 2020
Texas needs a new identity on offense following the departure of Sam Ehlinger and the firing of Tom Herman. Enter Robinson, who began living up to his five-star hype late in the season when Herman and the offensive staff finally began to lean on the talented youngster.
Robinson played in nine games, starting six of them. He capped off the season with an offensive MVP performance at the Alamo Bowl, accounting for 220 yards and multiple touchdowns. Texas went 5-1 in his six starts.
Robinson rushed for 703 yards and added 196 as a receiver. He averaged 8.97 yards per touch and became the first freshman to lead the Longhorns in all-purpose yards since Cedric Benson in 2001. Robinson averaged a school-record 8.2 yards per carry and enters the 2021 season as the most talented player on Texas’ roster.
FYI: Four stars, from Port Neches-Groves; ranked 237th nationally, No. 6-ranked dual-threat quarterback in 2019
Johnson was a prolific and successful prep quarterback at Port Neches-Groves. He arrived on campus as a quarterback before injuries to Longhorns running backs prior to the start of the 2019 season forced him to move to running back. Johnson took to the position naturally. He played in all 13 games as a freshman in 2019, tallying 807 all-purpose yards. He became the ninth true freshman in school history to rush for at least 600 yards.
He earned the start in the 2020 season opener against UTEP. He played in all 10 games, rushing for 418 yards and six touchdowns on 80 carries. He's a leader entering his third year on campus. He also achieves in the classroom. He was named to the academic All-Big 12 first team in 2020 and is a three-time member of the Big 12 commissioner’s honor roll.
FYI: Three stars; from Hallettsville; ranked 419th nationally, No. 25-ranked running back in 2021
Brooks would be a four-star prospect if he played in a major city or in a classification above 3A. He was hurt by the travel restrictions placed on coaches and recruiting reporters due to COVID-19 concerns. That worked out for Texas, however, because he flew under the radar despite rushing for 60 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards. Brooks broke the Class 3A record for rushing yards in a championship game with 299 in a loss to Tuscola Jim Ned. He'll enroll in the summer.
Raleek Brown, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
FYI: 5-8, 185; five stars; No. 3-ranked running back
Texas went out of state for a running back in 2020 with Robinson. The state of Texas is loaded with running backs in the 2022 cycle, but keep an eye on Brown. He already held a UT offer and the Longhorns are likely to pursue him even harder under Sarkisian. Brown is a fast, elusive back who's a big-play threat as a rusher, a receiver and a returner.
Jaydon Blue, Klein Cain
FYI: 5-11, 205; four stars; No. 4-ranked running back
The state is stacked with running backs and Blue might be the best. He’s the highest-ranked back in the state, beating out fellow UT offers Tavorus Jones and Jadarian Price. He’s a national top-100 player and a future member of the Fabulous 55. The Longhorns must beat out programs like Alabama, Oklahoma and Georgia for him. Blue rushed for 1,612 yards and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore. He was District 15-6A’s offensive newcomer of the year.
Tavorus Jones, El Paso Burges
FYI: 5-10, 180; four stars; No. 14-ranked running back
El Paso isn’t known as a recruiting hotbed, but one player could help change that perception in 2022. He rushed for 1,134 yards and 15 touchdowns on only 116 carries as a sophomore. He’s also a great receiver out of the backfield, accounting for 33 receptions for 498 yards and five touchdowns in the same season. Those numbers earned him District 2-5A Division II all-purpose athlete of the year honors in 2019. Texas offered him last April. Texas A&M and Alabama followed in May.
Jamarion Miller, Tyler Legacy
FYI: 5-10, 185; four stars; No. 18-ranked running back
Miller’s older brother, Damion, was a member of Texas’ 2017 class but he never made it to campus because of academic reasons. Jamarion is a two-sport star who ran an 11.06 100-meter dash as a freshman. He was also the District 11-6A offensive newcomer of the year as a freshman. He was first-team all-district as a sophomore. Miller entered his junior year with 1,648 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.
Jadarian Price, Denison
FYI: 5-11, 180; four stars; No. 21-ranked running back
Price is one of four in-state backs holding a Texas offer. He was the District 7-5A Division II newcomer of the year as a freshman in 2018, and a first-team all-district selection as a sophomore. The four-star is a future member of the Fab 55. Oklahoma State and Stanford are among the top teams for Price.