AUSTIN, Texas -- The last time Texas football coach Mack Brown walked into the Southern Flyer alongside the Brenham Municipal Airport, Jack Hess, who doesn’t know much about football but more than enough of about character, wanted to know when Ryan Roberson was going to start.
Roberson had been Hess’ line cook five years while he was a high school football star for Brenham High and now Hess was looking out for one of his own.
This is his year, Brown told Hess. He is the starter.
What Brown neglected to elaborate on was that Roberson would not only be the starter, but the backup and even the third string. The former burger flipper was the only fullback the Longhorns had.
Texas did make a move Tuesday to help Roberson. Alex De La Torre has switched from linebacker to backup fullback for the remaining spring practices.
“Sometimes you always look at trying to look at a guy on the other side of the ball,” Brown said. “We'll look at Alex De La Torre at fullback the second seven days, because we've seen him for eight days at linebacker. That doesn't mean he'll be a fullback in the fall, but that means we'll have a fair evaluation on both sides of the ball of where he fits.”
Texas had already moved linebacker Chet Moss to fullback prior to the start of spring But Moss has run into academic trouble and as such cannot be a reliable option for Texas.
As a just-in-case measure Texas is also looking at Barrett Matthews as a possible fullback. Matthews is also playing tight end, but has seen his stock drop in at that position because of the emergence of M.J. McFarland.
Of course there was a pervasive school of thought that Joe Bergeron, because of his size and because of the crowd at running back, might get moved to fullback. Texas has repeatedly squashed that notion by bringing up the scenario from last season at Missouri when Texas had to play its fourth string back for most of the game.
“If we've committed to being a physical football, you better be really good at tailback, you can't be average,” Brown said.
To do that, he feels Texas has to have three fresh, strong tailbacks and a strong presence at fullback. Roberson, who has primarily played on special teams his first three seasons, should be the player to fill that role.
What Roberson, or any fullback, should be able to provide for this offense is that one extra block to turn the ordinary into explosive. Texas has failed to produce explosive runs over the past two seasons, partly because the lack of backs, but also because of the inability of the offensive line.
In 2012 the offensive line is poised to be as good as it has been in several years. That means the defensive line and quite possibly a few linebackers should be taken care of by that group on run plays. Roberson, or whoever the fullback might be, will be responsible for picking up that one extra block that allows the running back to see daylight. And then, as always, the running back has to make one person miss for the play to work.
Then there is the extra touch co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin can add to the run game if that run game has a solid tailback/fullback combination.
“We can add toys,” Brown said.
That should be much more entertaining for Roberson than flipping burgers in Brenham.