Each day, as a countdown to fall camp opening Aug. 2, we are going to provide you with a number that was important in 2011 and let you know why it will be important in 2012.
When it came time to put the ball in the end zone in 2011 – clearly there were not enough of those times – Texas did it on the ground.
Inside the number
The Longhorns had 24 rushing touchdowns. Six teams in the Big 12 had more. Still it was Texas’ most effective means of getting six as the Longhorns only made it to the end zone via the pass 16 times. Only Kansas and Kansas State had fewer touchdown passes.
It remains to be seen if Texas’ passing game has improved, particularly in the red zone where Texas had a 66 pass efficiency rating, the lowest ever in Big 12 play. So it will be on the ground, behind a reliable line, that Texas will march.
Since Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron accounted for 10 scores, it is reasonable to discern they will be the primary focus of the run game inside the 10-yard line. Brown was effective even without shoes when it came to pushing his way in. See UCLA. Bergeron, despite injuries, proved that he is a tough insider runner and is the sturdier of the two backs.
Where it counts in 2012
In addition to grinding it out between the tackles, Texas wants to get its running backs on the edge. To do that, Texas has added a new wrinkle to the run game with the T and Z positions. Essentially this means the Longhorns are going to put more tailback type players -- D.J. Monroe, Daje Johnson and even Johnathan Gray -- in a position where they can get the ball in space and make big plays.
The hope is that some of that faster, shiftier backs can give Texas a home run threat from anywhere on the field. The Longhorns didn’t have that last season. In fact, the longest run of the season was 55 yards and turned in by fullback Cody Johnson. Bergeron and Fozzy Whittaker each had 51-yard runs. But, by and large, most of Texas’ damage in the run game was done in four and five-yard burst. The longest touchdown run was 36 yards by Whittaker against a lackluster UCLA defense.
On the flip side Texas gave up TD runs of 74 and 64. So those types of runs are out there to be made.