Malcolm Brown has all but disappeared from the Texas Longhorns' offense in recent weeks.
Brown, who led Texas in rushing yards as a freshman in 2011, did not touch the ball in a 20-13 loss to TCU on Thanksgiving. In the game prior against Iowa State, Brown didn't have a touch until Texas was ahead 30-7 in the fourth quarter.
Will the Longhorns attempt to get last year's leading rusher more involved Saturday against a Kansas State defense that allowed Baylor to run for 342 yards two weeks ago?
"I hope so," offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said.
That's not exactly a strong endorsement from the man calling the plays.
On Wednesday, running backs coach Major Applewhite said Brown is fully recovered from a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for five games. Brown was injured at Oklahoma State on Sept. 29. He returned against ISU on Nov. 10.
Brown's ankle injury appears to have factored into his lack of touches in recent weeks. During Brown's five-game absence, freshman Johnathan Gray rushed for 398 yards on 106 carries and emerged as the starter. Sophomore Joe Bergeron carried 69 times for 327 yards over that same period.
"That's one thing. Guys get dinged and other guys step up," Harsin said. "Johnathan stepped up. Joe stepped up. So your game plan as the season goes on starts to form itself with some of those guys in there. Now all of a sudden one of your players comes back and you have to get them back in the mix. It's nothing against Malcolm."
Brown led Texas with 238 rushing yards during non-conference play, despite carrying just twice for five yards against New Mexico in the second game of the season. But Gray and Bergeron have been productive as well. Gray leads UT with 654 rushing yards. Bergeron is second with 562 and has a team-high 16 rushing touchdowns. Of course, there is only one football to go around.
"Both those guys continue to keep to keep playing at a high level and doing a nice job," Harsin said of Gray and Bergeron. "We've got to get Malcolm back in the mix. But you don't want to spread it too thin to where nobody is getting enough reps as the game goes on to get into a rhythm."
Brown missed consecutive games last November, but played through a sprained MCL and turf toe against Kansas State and suited up again five days later to face Texas A&M. He totaled 29 touches in those two games, nearly triple the amount he's received since returning from his latest injury.
"I know he is frustrated," Applewhite said.
By Austin Laymance/Special to the Star-Telegram