Texas Longhorns tailback Malcolm Brown will not play against West Virginia on Saturday, the result of a left ankle sprain.
Brown suffered the injury during the first half of last Saturday's 41-36 win at Oklahoma State. The sophomore, who lead UT in rushing last season, had three carries for seven yards against OSU. Brown is second on the team with 245 rushing yards on 40 carries (6.1 average).
With Brown unavailable, the No. 11 Longhorns (4-0) will look for more from freshman Johnathan Gray and senior Jeremy Hills. Gray is likely to see the biggest increase in playing time among UT's reserves. Starter Joe Bergeron will likely receive the bulk of the carries.
"Everybody has to step up and try to fill that void," Hills said.
When Brown left Saturday's game in the first half, Gray saw more touches and led Texas with 68 rushing yards on 12 carries (both career-highs). The Longhorns raved about Gray's performance this week and are confident the running game won't be hampered by Brown's absence. UT rushed for 99 yards in the second half against OSU without Brown.
"It's not going to change much from the second quarter of last week's game," running backs coach Major Applewhite said. "We will rotate Joe Bergeron, Johnathan Gray and Jeremy Hills. We will also use Daje Johnson and D.J. Monroe in those roles that we had them in last week and go from there."
Gray's touches have increased each week. The former Aledo High School star is third on the team with 33 carries for 157 yards (4.8 average).
"He is continuing to get better and better with every carry," Applewhite said. "He is running the ball with more confidence, more power and is able to get to that second level. I think the speed of the game and the physicality of the game is all becoming more natural to him."
The Longhorns rushing attack was decimated by injuries last season. Brown missed three games with turf toe and a knee issue, Bergeron missed three games with a hamstring issue and Fozzy Whittaker suffered a torn ACL that cost him four games. But Texas has more depth in its backfield this year with Gray in the fold.
"That's the running back situation, the likelihood of all three running backs staying healthy through the entire season or a game, we proved that last year," offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "Johnathan has been waiting for his opportunity. He's gotten more and more reps and he's prepared himself for if somebody goes does down. He has a chance to go in there and play more."
By Austin Laymance/Special to the Star-Telegram