Texas RB Brown trying to find room to run

AUSTIN, Texas -- Malcolm Brown wants to believe, once again, that there will be enough carries to go around this year.

That very well could be true. Texas wants to move from running around 65 plays a game to up near 85. David Ash doesn’t appear to be a 45-pass-attempt-a-game guy, so those extra plays, if Texas is successful in producing them, will have to fall to someone’s shoulders. And Johnathan Gray probably cannot carry that load by himself.

"We can all run in there with the first group and play," Brown said. "Nobody in the running back room is selfish at all. We’re all happy for each other and want to see everybody do well. Whatever situation it is and whatever guy is best at that situation will be in the game."

That hasn’t always been the case, particularly with Brown. That’s due in part to injuries. Brown, once heralded as the back who would bring back the Texas run game, has only started eight games in his two-year career. He has played in 18. And has really only been 100-percent healthy in 12 games.

Then there were the issues with the playcalling. Brown had 14 carries and 100-plus yards in the opener against Wyoming and two carries in the next game against New Mexico State. Texas said it tried to get him the ball. But that excuse rings slightly hollow considering the level of difficulty involved in turning and handing the ball off to a running back is typically mastered in pee wee football.

Then there was the Alamo Bowl, Brown’s homecoming and a game in which he was fully healthy. He carried the ball four times for eight yards.

So it has been a stop-start, head-scratching journey for a player who once was the second best running back prospect in the nation. When Brown has been good, he has been really good -- more than half his 1,066 career rushing yards have come in five games (587 yards), and he rushed for an average of 5.6 yards per carry in those games. When he has been banged up and/or forgotten, well, he has been banged up and/or forgotten -- he has 479 yards in his other 13 games played and has averaged 4.0 yards per carry.

Clearly what Texas and Brown have to figure out is how to get him to consistently produce like he did in the aforementioned five games. One key might be to get him the ball more. Four of his five 100-yard plus rushing games have come when he has had 19 or more carries. The other came when he had 15 carries.

Brown appears, at least by judging from the stats, to be a back who needs to work himself into the groove of a game and wear down opponents. Whether or not that style is conducive to the new tempo, no-huddle approach Texas is taking remains to be seen.

If Texas has two or even three backs sharing carries, it could be difficult for Brown to reach the 20-carry plateau. Gray has to get his carries. Joe Bergeron might merit some. Daje Johnson could get a few. This offense appears to favor fast starters and quick hitters. Brown, again as indicated by his stats, is more of a mudder; a runner willing to do the dirty work it takes to get to 100 yards.

There is at least one tiny shred of evidence Brown could provide some pop instead of just plow. He touched the ball four times in the spring game and averaged 8.5 yards per carry. Now granted that was against a cobbled-together defense, but at least it showed Brown running with a sense of urgency and purpose right from the start.

Then again, those four carries were three fewer than Gray and five fewer than Bergeron. So, once again, Brown ended up with the short end of the sharing stick, even though there were supposed to be enough carries to go around.