Scipio Tex (who has written at length about Our Running Game) recently pointed out the danger of the running back personality cult on his Wyoming post game, and he is absolutely correct.
There is not a running back on the roster that will solve our woes against opponents where our talent is not enough to be efficient by itself. I am of the belief that no elite back in the country could solve our woes completely because our running attack is based on the farce that Vince Young is our quarterback. I like to call our ground game The Existential Fallacy for alot of punny reasons that amuse no one but myself and the long dead Aristotle.
Let's look at what we got.
Cody Johnson - Cody is one helluva short yardage back. If he was in the Big Ten, friendly, corn-fed, jort-sporting, Middle American sheeple with no accent and good attitudes would goo their drawers. He might even be productive in a downhill spread attack. His main skills are balance and power. He is useless to us in downs of distance greater than 2 yards, but he is a beast in the jumbo set.
Vondrell McGee - I will always wonder what Vondrell would have done in a competent I back system. The barista formerly known as Nebraska Option Football would have made excellent use of him. He has been in the system long enough to know where the holes are in our running game, which is nice, but he doesn't have an intuitive understanding (he needs to think). From a standing start three yards deep, he doesn't have the acceleration to hit zone blocking scheme seams. If we ran a true Shanahan running game with creative wrinkles like the power toss or even an Indy Colts one back one cut downhill zone running set, he could be excellent. In our infinite wisdom, we do not utilize these tried and true zone blocking plays. Sorry, Vondrell.
Fozzy Whitaker - The scat back is a viable option in a shotgun spread (God damn you Quentin Griffin, God Damn You!). Unfortunately, Fozzy isn't big enough to run football plays without suffering leg injuries. I think that he will be of use for one or two games a season for the next few years.
DJ Monroe - DJ has no idea whatsoever where the hole is supposed to be on any given running play. If he met the hole at the bar, he would not hit on her even if it was 2 am and he had struck out everywhere else. The holes are there often, and he misses them often. This makes me shout incoherently at television sets or Joe Jamail Field. Of course, we could use him like Urban Meyer used Percy Harvin, but Trips Right has a better chance of ending up in the midget wrestling menage a trois that he so ardently desires than Greg Davis does of devising an intelligent and creative running scheme. Hopefully he gets a lot of special teams touches because the kid has mad skeeeeeeeellllz.
Enormous Freshman Backs Tight Ends
Chris Whaley - I think Whaley will be an excellent player for the Horns, but he is not a running back. Henry Melton says, "Good Luck, kid."
Spread Backs Back
Tre Newton - Newton is the illegitimate offspring of Vondrell McGee and Fozzy Whitaker. He has just enough of Vondrell's size to not sprain a knee on every play, and just enough of Fozzy's speed to capitalize on the seams (not holes) that our zone blocking scheme creates on a consistent basis. He has been playing in the spread his entire career, so he can react to an opening instinctively and has just enough burst to take advantage of the said seem (two things poor Vondrell can't do). He is also a natural pass catcher and an excellent and willing blocker in pass protection and downfield. We can put him outside in the empty set to give a different look without substitution, which is the height of deception for Greg Davis.
These are the skills that made Chris Ogbannaya our improbable go to back last year.
Unfortunately, we need two or three Tre Newtons or one Vince Young to make our running game coherent, and we only have one redshirt freshman running back with less than 40 career touches. Right now, the best we can hope for is the occasional excellent game and the majority of crunch time snaps going to the red shirt freshman offspring of a gregarious 350 lb dope runner.
So, there is reason for optimism because Tre Newton fits our offense perfectly, not because he has otherworldly talent. He is neither too hot nor too cold. If that sounds like tepid optimism at best, well, it is because it is tepid optimism at best.
In some ways, Greg Davis is the most frustrating single entity in the history of Horns Football.