All the emergency sirens are currently flashing in the Texas running back room as Tom Herman announced Monday that freshman running back Jordan Whittington will be out 4-6 weeks with a groin injury.
He will fly to Philadelphia as soon as possible to surgically repair a torn abductor suffered during No. 10 Texas’ 45-14 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night. Whittington has dealt with nagging groin injuries since high school, and a cut he made during a 14-yard reception on Saturday night appeared to tip the scale from “nagging” to “fully injured.”
While this may seem like an overreaction to losing a true freshman running back who has never carried the ball in a live college game — he caught two passes for 17 yards in his one series before the injury — and did not play running back in high school, the 5-star athlete was expected to be a major player at running back this season partially because of his talent (he was a 5-star, after all) and largely because, well, there’s no one else.
With Whittington out, Texas is currently down to one (1) healthy scholarship running back. That would be sophomore Keaontay Ingram, who bulked up to 220 pounds in the offseason to prepare for an increased workload, but has also battled nagging injuries throughout his career. Ingram missed two weeks of training camp due to a bone bruise, but he was healthy enough to rush 11 times for 78 yards and a touchdown on Saturday night.
Whittington joins a running back infirmary that already includes senior Kirk Johnson, who has battled numerous injuries throughout his career and is currently out due to a joint sprain in his shoulder, and Daniel Young, a junior who sustained a high ankle sprain in late August. Texas signed 4-star Derrian Brown in its 2019 class, but he is working to get back to football after suffering a stroke in February.
Texas also recruited 4-star running back Noah Cain in the 2019 class, but he picked Penn State over the Longhorns on Signing Day in February.
As for who will carry the ball outside of Ingram, well, that’s an interesting list. Texas moved true freshman quarterback Roschon Johnson to running back late last month, a move that was sold as temporary at the time but now appears permanent. Johnson acquitted himself well on Saturday, rushing seven times for 26 yards and showed himself a willing blocker but, still. Texas is set to play No. 6 LSU on Saturday and its backup running back is a true freshman who never played running back in a game until three days ago.
Herman also announced true freshman linebacker David Gbenda has been moved to running back; he’ll be third string on Saturday.
Obviously, the elephant in this room is quarterback Sam Ehlinger. He’s a willing (to say the least) runner who is certainly a large part of the Longhorn running game, but the larger he becomes the greater the chance he takes the wrong hit to the wrong part of his body, and then Texas will enter Defcon 1 offensively.
Behind Ehlinger is redshirt freshman Casey Thompson, whose five passes on Saturday night represent the only passes of his college career.
Slot receivers Devin Duvernay and Jake Smith could also garner carries to diversify the ground game — Duvernay carried the ball twice on Saturday; Smith rushed for 741 yards as an all-purpose back en route to Gatorade National Player of the Year honors at Scottsdale’s Notre Dame Prep last year — and safety BJ Foster could represent an emergency, emergency option after rushing for 952 yards and 18 touchdowns on 9.5 yards a carry as a senior at Angleton (Texas) High School, but clearly the most sensible, rational option for Texas is to call in every shaman, faith healer and witch doctor on Earth to cast a protective spell on Ingram’s joints for at least the next four-to-six weeks.