Applewhite's Three-Headed Monster?

McGee is known for moving the pile (Gallagher/IT)

Former Texas QB Major Applewhite handed off to a couple of monster RBs (Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson) during his tenure. Now, the Longhorn assistant seems to be creating a three-headed beast at RB that is one-part power-driver (Vondrell McGee), one-part shake-and-bake (Fozzy Whittaker) and one expected to move the sticks on third-down (Chris Ogbonnaya).

Will it combine for a one-two-three punch when Texas opens against Florida Atlantic in little more than three weeks?

To a man, each RB speaks glowingly of his two challengers. Each insists that individual candidates bring something unique and indispensable to the field. The rhetoric implies that one is not necessarily better than the others, but only different. Then again, their conviction is that the trio will provide such a change of pace that opposing defenses will find it difficult to contain all three.

"All three of the guys bring a different aspect to the game individually," Chris Ogbonnaya said. "When you put all of it together, it makes us a very dangerous group. If you have three different guys who can do different things, we will be very difficult to defend."

And, so, these three remain.

"He (Applewhite) basically told us we're working as a committee," Foswhitt Whittaker said Wednesday. "Each one of us will have to play at some time during the season."

There are those who prefer that Applewhite, in his first year as Longhorn RB coach, establish a pecking order at running back. Likewise, there are those who suggest that tailback-by-committee is just a moniker used when there is no appreciable separation at that spot. It could also be that Applewhite is keeping his charges hungry with the open competition to succeed 2007 Big 12 rushing leader Jamaal Charles.

It is generally expected that sophomore Vondrell McGee, who ran for 297 yards on 75 carries as Charles' primary backup, will open with the Ones against Florida Atlantic. Then again, McGee and Ogbonnaya have each opened with the Ones in practice. Then again, Whittaker may have been the most electrifying, razzle-dazzle runner not named John Chiles to suit up for the Horns last spring. For now, it appears Applewhite will play the RB who has the "hot hand" on any given Saturday.

"You would think that with three guys going for one spot that there would be some guys who are self-centered because he just wants that starting spot," said Applewhite. "All three help each other out on the practice field. They get excited when one of them picks up a blitz. They get excited when one of them makes a run. That's what you want because one of them is going to have the hot hand on Saturday and who's going to play more. That's just the way you have to substitute them."

Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis has likened RS-freshman Fozzy Whitaker to "a faster (former Longhorn) Hodges Mitchell." Whittaker has explosive lateral moves and showed a penchant for turning the corner in Wednesday's sessions at Denius Fields. Whittaker finished his prep career (Pearland) as the sixth-leading rusher in Texas 5A history (5,717 yards). QB Colt McCoy recently praised him for his blitz pick-ups and receiving skills out of the backfield.

"Coming in, I felt like I could play," Whittaker said, "but I just want to fit in where ever I could fit in just to help out the team."

McGee helped the team last season when he basically replaced fumble-prone Charles as the designated scorer inside the five-yard line. His eight rushing TDs last seasom ranks No. 5 all-time among Longhorn freshman. McGee is currently listed at 5-10, 205 pounds but now checks-in at 210, coaches report.

"All three made strides, physically, during the off-season," Applewhite added. "They all came to camp in great shape. There was a lot of carry-over from the spring as far as understanding the scheme."

Ogbonnaya made the biggest strides. The fifth-year player shed approximately 20 pounds since December and now stands 6-1, 215. As such, coaches believe Ogbonnaya can be counted on as an every-down back.

"To me, it's just whatever I can do to help the team," Ogbonnaya said. "If the opportunity presents itself, I'm going to grasp it. We're very interchangeable with the guys we have. Every guy can do everything."

Spoken like a true committee member.

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