There was once a period when Texas Football produced legendary running backs. Names such as Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, and Jamaal Charles, the Longhorns were synonymous with great running backs. This seems like ancient history at this point.
For over a decade, the Lorghorns have struggled tremendously in producing draft-worthy running backs. To put this into perspective, the last Longhorns running back to be drafted was D'Onta Foreman in 2017. Since 2008, they have only produced three draft-worthy running backs.
In 2019, the Longhorns recruited junior running back Roschon Johnson. At 6'2, 225 lbs, Johnson came to the program as an All-American quarterback out Port Neches, Texas,
When a slew of injuries to the Texas running back resulted in a shortage of depth at the position, Johnson converted a week before their season opener in his true freshman year, a decision that would pay dividends. By the time the season was over, Johnson racked up 807 all-purpose yards, including 649 rushing yards; the ninth true freshman running back in program history to accomplish this feat.
A year later, the Longhorns would bring in five-star running back out of Tucson, Arizona, Bijan Robinson. For much of the season, Robinson received minimal playing time; coincidentally, their ground offense struggled. This would change in week six against West Virginia, when he broke out for 151 all-purpose yards in their 17–13 upset over the Mountaineers.
From that point, Robinson became a one-man wrecking crew on the ground, accounting for 522 rushing yards and averaged over 12 yards-per-carry in his last four games of the season. The running back former head coach Tom Herman once stated, "he's what they’re supposed to look like" — Robinson dominated the competition and earned the nation's attention in the process.
The Longhorns offense, under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, should feature a heavy dose of Johnson and Robinson this upcoming season. Even the best Big 12 Conference defensive units should have their hands full trying to neutralize the combination of power and finesse both backs bring to the table.
In reflection, finding NFL-caliber running backs in an era that has emphasized vertical offenses with receivers and quarterbacks has become increasingly difficult with each passing year. The Longhorns may have found two who are set to take the nation by storm, and help bring return a culture that has long been extinct.