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Now without Bijan Robinson, Texas needs Roschon Johnson to lead on the football field, too

Horns have full faith in 1,000-yard rusher: ‘He has the ability to get yards and we’ve got complete faith in Ro’

Texas cannot build a winning culture with players who blow up at the coaching staff and then quit the team with three games left. Nobody can build a championship program with players who secretly record the coaches and share the video.

You can build championship contenders with players who simply show up and do the work.

That’s all Roschon Johnson’s ever done since arriving at Texas.

“It’s still business as usual,” Johnson said Tuesday. “Going from here on out, it’s a matter of learning and correcting what I can correct and put my best foot forward. So nothing’s really changed.”

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Texas running back Roschon Johnson signed with the Longhorns as a quarterback, but was moved to running back within months of arriving on campus. He's stayed there ever since and will take over starting duties for Texas' final two games in the wake of Bijan Robinson's season-ending elbow injury.

Mired in a five-game losing streak, the first in 65 years, the Longhorns (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) must win their final two games to reach bowl eligibility. Lose one, and the program has locked in a losing record for the first time since 2016.

Dire straits don’t appear to faze the junior from Port Neches.

Recruited as a quarterback, Johnson changed positions when Texas had depth issues in the backfield. As a running back, he had to wait for playing time behind Bijan Robinson. Now with Robinson out for the season with an elbow injury, Johnson becomes the de facto starter Saturday against West Virginia (4-6, 2-5).

“Offensively, I just feel like Ro is a great leader,” defensive back Anthony Cook said. “He has the ability to get yards and we’ve got complete faith in Ro.”

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Johnson has 313 yards on 50 carries with three rushing touchdowns this season. That’s despite battling through a turf toe injury that’s been bothering him at least the last two games.

“I’ll be ready to go come Saturday,” Johnson said. “My body did better than expected when I went into the game last Saturday. I’m headed up the right track. I’ll be good.”

Robinson had 1,127 yards on 195 carries and 11 touchdowns. He’ll miss the final two regular season games, though. Johnson should get some help with the return of Keilan Robinson, who was expected to clear COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday. Another running back, Jonathon Brooks, is battling a shoulder injury.

Johnson may be moving into the spotlight, but he acknowledges the star that left the stage.

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Texas running back Bijan Robinson, left, celebrates his touchdown against Rice with fellow running back Roschon Johnson during the Longhorns' victory on Sept. 18. Robinson's season is over, but he rushed for more than 1,000 yards before he was injured.

“First and foremost as a person, Bijan has impacted a lot of people just by his spirit and by his faith,” Johnson said. “You can really see that on him. He’s always smiling, he always brings good energy. Obviously, his natural ability to play the game is incredible.

“The season that he put on, the games that he did play, he was a tremendous impact,” Johnson added. “He’s honestly a generational talent.”

A generational talent, according to Johnson. Not many athletes are cognizant enough to recognize who’s around them. But that’s who Johnson is.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said the entire roster can be broken down into three groups based on who’s engaged and who isn’t. “And clearly you want every player to be in group one, right?” he said. “All in, totally committed to what we’re doing.”

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The group two players “are still trying to figure it out,” the coach said. As for group three, “that are wondering if this is for them.”

Is there any doubt where Johnson ranks?

“I feel like since they’ve gotten here, they’ve preached the right mindset among all the players,” Johnson said of the coaching staff. “It’s about us buying in and executing what they set out for us to do.”

Johnson has four 100-yard games on his resume. He ran for 112 yards on just three carries earlier this season against Rice. That included a career-long 72-yard touchdown run.

West Virginia’s run defense ranks fifth in the Big 12. It’s a unit capable of scuttling Oklahoma (57 yards allowed), but one that got run over by Iowa State (239 yards).

Texas running back Roschon Johnson runs for yardage during the Sept. 25 win over Texas Tech at Royal-Memorial Stadium. He'll be the Longhorns' starter for the rest of the season.

Sarkisian is expected to start quarterback Casey Thompson, who threw six touchdowns last week against Kansas and still had to split time with Hudson Card. It’s unclear if Sarkisian will rotate the quarterbacks again in the final two games.

There’s not much of a rotation at running back, though. It’ll be Johnson’s show practically start to finish.

Asked to gauge the team’s motivation, Johnson said, “I feel like the energy is good, where it needs to be. It’s not too low. I feel like coming off those losses, we’re at a good place, I would say.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.

Saturday's game

Texas at West Virginia, 11 a.m., ESPN2, 104.9