For as much attention as the heated quarterback battle gets, Texas’ rushing attack is what will carry this team in 2012.
On Wednesday, HornsNation took a long look at some of the most successful three-back systems in recent years for a glimpse at what kind of blueprint the Longhorns could adopt.
That story focused on 500-yard rushers, but there are so many other statistics that merit consideration when trying to set the bar of expectations for this backfield.
First, it’s worth noting that last year’s Longhorn offense was arguably the most run-heavy one Bryan Harsin has operated in his six years as an offensive coordinator.
In Harsin’s five seasons of playcalling at Boise State, rushing plays accounted for, on average, 54.6 percent of his offense. A little more than 40 percent of the Broncos’ total yardage came from running the ball during his tenure.
In his debut year in Austin, Harsin ran the ball on 62.2 percent of his play calls, and rushing accounted for 51.6 percent of UT’s total offense.
That’s a bit of a dramatic change, but his first Bronco offense in 2006 had similar rushing ratios.
Harsin leaned more on the pass the next four years. You can credit that to Boise’s personnel, but how will he transition his Texas playcalling into year two and beyond?
The dual-threat difference
In Mack Brown’s 14 years as head coach, Texas’ offense has run the ball on nearly 57 percent of its plays. During the Vince Young era, that jumped to almost 66 percent.
Brown has averaged 516 rushing plays a year. That peaked at 615 with Young and Cedric Benson in 2004.
To be fair, total carries doesn’t necessarily correlate with success. Texas ran the ball 439 times the year Ricky Williams won his Heisman Trophy.
Another average during Brown’s time in Austin: 2,354 rushing yards per season. With Vince Young under center, the Longhorns averaged 3,395 yards per year.
With Young, Texas finished in the top 10 in rushing every year. Without, UT’s average finish since 1998 is 46th.
Young was a once-in-a-generation talent, there’s no overlooking that. But it also speaks to how much more powerful Texas can be when an elite dual-threat quarterback is running the show.
How to slice the pie
In today’s story on the Longhorn backfield, we looked at nine major-conference schools that made BCS bowls in the past five years with a trio of 500-plus yard backs.
How might Texas find itself in that group this fall? Take the averages of those nine teams and it’s doesn’t look so difficult.
Say Malcolm Brown runs for 976 yards. That’s what the No. 1 back got on average. Not unreasonable, is it?
Then give Joe Bergeron 755 yards. And have Johnathan Gray chip in a modest 628.
Ration out 321 yards to Jeremy Hills, and 381 to be divided by hybrid backs D.J. Monroe and Daje Johnson. Monroe ran for 326 last fall, so that’s no problem.
Add all that up and you get 3,061 rushing yards. That’s the average of the nine BCS bowl schools.
Last year, that output would be good for No. 12 nationally in total rushing.
Pair it with an above-average passing attack and Texas might really have something.