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Carrying The Mail: Why Cody Johnson Is The Answer At RB

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By now, all of you know that I'm not a running back fetishist.

But we all agree that we want a stud carrying the mail. Sans elite talent, I look at fit. What is it we're trying to do on offense and how does a guy's skill set enable or cripple that?

Cody Johnson

Cody's greatest asset is his ability to give the Longhorn offense a physical dimension, absent from our running game since 2004. If you want to sell play action, have a guy running through the hole that LBs and safeties think they need a running start to tackle.

He's a good pass blocker. At 5-10, 250, Cody can step up with authority to stone a blitzing LB or safety. He also attracts positive yardage like The Secret. Cody will create 2nd and 8 rather than chase ghosts on the corner and create negative plays. Very underrated attribute.

Cody does have an injury history (mostly related to body imbalance), he doesn't represent a home run threat, and he's unproven in terms of workload capacity.

Career stats: 163 carries, 673 yards, 24 TDs*, 4.1 ypc, 7 catches, 42 yards

* He has a good chance at leaving Texas with 50+ rushing TDs. Wild stat.

Fozzy Whittaker

You don't appreciate just how quick Fozzy is until you see him at field level. In many respects, our purest running talent. He has unique acceleration, lateral movement, and burst. Also put on good weight and the coaches have cut back his contact to keep him healthy. He has solid hands out of the backfield, but pass blocking is a liability. He tends to break everything outside, running inside zone plays as if they're a toss sweep. He's the anti-Cody in that respect.

He has an extensive injury history and lacks durability.

Career Stats: 117 carries, 496 yards, 4 TDs, 4.2 ypc, 23 catches, 102 yards

Tre Newton

Tre has been called solid, workmanlike, and reliable so often that I'm starting to wonder if he's a white NFL receiver in a game being called by Joe Buck. Jack-of-all-trades: solid receiver, capable runner, willing blocker. I can't name a glaring weakness in his game nor can I name a notable strength. He's an efficient runner with a little bit more wiggle than he gets credits for. Like many jacks-of-all-trades, he masters none.

Career stats: 116 carries, 552 yards, 6 TDs, 4.8 ypc, 14 catches, 108 yards.

DJ Monroe will participate in special packages. Quick pitch, shovel pass, wheel route, draw, screen. He's tough and fast, but lacks the size or hands to be a consistent every down RB. Houston Nutt is a cackling backwoods lunatic, but Ole Miss has some useful film of how to use a guy like this. See Dexter McCluster.

Traylon Shead looks like he'll play but won't threaten the Johnson-Newton - Whitaker trio for meaningful snaps.

If you ran a RB combine with all of the guys in shorts, Jeremy Hills would look like a top option. The coaches who see him every day differ. Maybe he's just not that serious about football.

Vondrell McGee is working his way out of the DUI doghouse and I expect his primary contribution to be on special teams.


The coaches want to limit running back by committee, or at least draw sane boundaries, so I expect to see a three RB rotation of Johnson, Newton, Whitaker with DJ Monroe making occasional appearances to run a special play that the defense will be calling out before the snap.

Newton looks to be the 3rd down RB as he has the protection edge over Fozzy.

Who should get the lion's share of carries? I'm not sure there will be a lion's share, but let me make my argument for the new and improved Cody Johnson to get the boss tomcat's share.

1. Physical identity. Does this need explanation?

2. Protection. Garrett Gilbert is the most important player on the team. Can Tre or Fozzy stop Ronnell Lewis on a blitz?

3. Suitability. This offense doesn't need the potential of long runs from the RB position intermixed with lots of 2nd and 11. It needs 2nd and 5. And Cody is good enough to go 25 or 30 if you block it right.

4. Opponents.

This is crucial to understanding my argument. Our four most important games are @ Tech, OU, NU, A&M.

Tech and A&M run 3-4 defenses. Which, by alignment, tell you that running outside is going to be tough sledding. There are seams a plenty at holes 0, 1, 2 if your interior OL can handle that NG/ILB triangle. Who do you want to send into the interior mosh pit?

Next, OU. Their DT group is not looking as good as predicted at this stage and Tom Wort, the MLB, is a very active, undersized player who is great laterally. On the edges, they have elite physical freaks like Ronnell Lewis, Travis Lewis, and Jeremy Beal. So how would you like to attack OU in the running game? Right. OU is also going to blitz us with big-time talents at OLB. Who do you want manning the wall?

Moving on...

Finally, Nebraska. They run a base nickel. The purpose of their base nickel is to thwart your passing game and get enough quickness on the field to shut down the edges. You need to go through Nebraska or over top of Nebraska. Not around Nebraska. Nebraska is also extremely physical. What identity would you hope we've established when we roll into Lincoln?