Injuries have not been kind to the Longhorn’s running backs unit. Texas is down to just two scholarship backs after losing Kirk Johnson and Daniel Young. With the Longhorn’s season about to kick off, how worried should Burnt Orange Nation be?
The Texas faithful shouldn’t exactly love situation, but not all is lost. The Longhorns leaned on primarily three runners last season. They pounded the ground by committee with Watson, Ehlinger, and Ingram. It should be much of the same this year. Ingram will be back and we all know what Ehlinger brings to the table. Let’s take a look at what this years backs can bring to the table.
The biggest concern is keeping the two back they have healthy.
The backfield will be lead by the sophomore Kaeontay Ingram. He was second on the team in rushing with 708 yards and third in rush attempts with 142 touches last season. He was also potent out of the backfield catching screens. He caught 27 balls for 170 yards.
Although he is recovering from a left knee injury, he should be ready to go come game day. He’s looked solid on his knee in practice, and he has shown the Longhorn offense can lean on him to handle most of the load.
Whittington is a freshman this year and will be thrown into the mix early in the season. He is the default number two guy due to injuries. He is a promising young freshman who was ranked sixth overall in the state of Texas in last year’s recruiting class.
He will have to show what he can do as he will be heavily relied on early in the season. Unfortunately, he isn’t without is own injury concerns. He’s still dealing with the after effects of a sports hernia, but it hasn’t been bothering him too much in practice.
As a 5th-year senior, Johnson was hoping to earn more playing time this year. He gave Texas depth at the position. Unfortunately, he is dealing with a shoulder injury and has been ruled out for the Horn’s game against Louisiana Tech, and probably longer.
A couple of weeks ago, it looked like Young was the back to share reps with Ingram this season. Young was a member of the Horn’s 2017 recruiting class, and has played in every game since stepping on campus. As a freshman he ran 373 yards, and after a sophomore slump, he has looked ready to bounce back.
Unfortunately, he will now have to focus on bouncing back from a high ankle sprain suffered last week. Being number two on the depth chart, his injury hurts the team more than Johnson’s.
His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield was a big help on third downs. Losing him is a major blow to start of the season. He may be able to return at some point, but if he misses too much time and another back gets healthy, Herman may just decide to redshirt Young.
Although Young’s and Johnson’s injuries will be a hurdle the team will have to overcome, they still have Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger is a major component to Texas’ run game. He was second in rush attempts last season with 164. He also scored 16 touchdowns on the ground; a mile ahead of any other running back on the team. Ehlinger’s ability to run the ball in the redone is impeccable. He will have to do the same again this year if Texas wants to pick up where they left off.
The Injuries to the backfield aren’t great, but to determine how much of a blow it is, we will have to wait and see on Saturday. Fingers crossed that the Longhorns can shake this injury bug.