Most Important Texas Players

Most Important Texas Players

LonghornDigest.com is counting down the most important players on the Texas roster. At No. 7 is speed demon D.J. Monroe.

7) D.J. Monroe, running back

Last season, both Texas coach Mack Brown and former Longhorn offensive coordinator Greg Davis talked about the challenge of utilizing Monroe, citing that when he came into the game, everybody knew that he was going to get the ball. Even more specifically, the opposing team knew that Monroe was going to get the ball on a handoff.

That's the problem when a player struggles to block, and Monroe didn't catch a single pass last year. But it didn't matter, as Monroe averaged 8.5 yards per carry anyway, nearly catching up to part-time starter Tre Newton in yardage, despite the fact that Newton had almost three times as many carries.

In football, they say, there's a tendency to overthink things. And that might have been the only reason not to give the ball to Monroe, arguably the Big 12's fastest player with the ball in his hands (and his main competition, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, is redshirting this season). How else could somebody explain this phenomenon, the fact that a player so blindingly effective didn't receive more touches?

And so what if everybody knew he was running the ball when he entered the game? Consider this: anything over four yards per carry is considered a good average. But the DIFFERENCE between Monroe and the Longhorns' next best per-carry running back was 4.1 yards per tote.

Not surprisingly, the word all spring and summer was that new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin meant to get the speedy back more touches. And co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said that the Longhorns weren't as worried about getting him the ball because the offense had built-in counters to defenses that overreacted to Monroe's presence.

Early on, reports are that Monroe will see the ball in a number of ways, be it on short passes or jet sweeps. And that's a good thing on an offense that doesn't return any proven big-play guys (no returning receiver averaged better than 10.2 yards per catch). Monroe's ability to flip the field on one carry should help out an offense desperate for big plays, and even if he doesn't outrun everyone to the endzone — as he did against Oklahoma — he'll be able to change field position and put the offense into a much better place.

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