As Texas seemingly shifts its attention to the future of its backfield, veteran running backs Chris Warren III and Kyle Porter have moved on to new roles.
Warren remains the team’s leading rusher with 314 yards over 71 carries. On Monday, Porter was among the four possible starters at running back listed on the depth chart. Texas, though, has had a youth movement at the position over the last three games.
In a 38-7 win over Baylor on Oct. 28, freshmen Toneil Carter and Daniel Young combined for 22 carries. Carter missed the next game with a head injury, but Young logged 12 carries against TCU. Young had 21 carries in last week’s 42-27 win over Kansas.
Warren, meanwhile, has only four carries in the past three games. He also has caught two passes and also has thrown a pass in those three games since a 12-carry, 33-yard effort against Oklahoma State. Porter has five carries during that span, all of which came against Kansas.
Against the Jayhawks, Warren was brought in to block as a fullback. The 250-pound junior scored on his only carry, a 1-yard plunge that needed to be confirmed by replay. Texas coach Tom Herman said the shifting of Warren’s role was made out of “necessity,” since UT wanted more physicality at that position.
“Standing him on the sideline is probably not his best role on the team,” Herman said. “We’re still experimenting with it. That’s a tough spot to put him in with just a few weeks left — ‘Hey, go learn a new position.’ We’re very careful with what we’re asking him to do on a week-to-week basis, and make sure that the package we have for him is consumable by him and executable by him.”
Porter returned two kickoffs against Kansas. Slowed by a chest injury since the mid-October loss to Oklahoma, Porter averaged 20 yards per kickoff return. Herman said finding a new role for Porter allows UT to keep the sophomore’s toughness and leadership on the field.
Injury report: Herman said receiver Dorian Leonard (foot) and nickelback P.J. Locke III (ankle) will miss Saturday’s game at West Virginia. Herman was optimistic that Locke, who will miss his third straight game, can return for UT’s regular-season finale against Texas Tech on Nov. 24.
Linebacker Gary Johnson went through non-contract practice on Sunday, Herman added. Johnson left the win over Kansas in the third quarter with a neck stinger. Said Herman: “He can run around, do everything, he just can’t bang on that nerve until it heals. Could be a day or two, could be four or five days.”
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