Tom Herman has never seen anything like it.
Just as quickly as the Texas head coach started to list off what his running back depth chart was supposed to look like at the start of the season, he almost just as quickly crossed them off.
As the No. 9 Longhorns are set to take on No. 6 LSU Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at DKR, the top three rushers are a sophomore battling an injury (Keaontay Ingram), the third-string quarterback (Roschon Johnson) and a converted linebacker (David Gbenda).
“I’ve never heard of it happening, let alone happening to me,” Herman said of all the injuries to the running backs. “Kudos to Roschon and David for saying, ‘Whatever this team needs I will do,” and they’ve done it well.
Herman announced Monday that Jordan Whittington, who was questionable before the Longhorns opened the season Saturday against Louisiana Tech, suffered a sports hernia and would be out for four to six weeks. He’ll head to Philadelphia and have surgery.
Ingram was the Longhorns’ leading rusher in the season-opening 45-14 win over the Bulldogs, carrying the ball 11 times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Johnson had seven carried for 26 yards in his first appearance in the backfield since high school.
Despite playing the position for less than a week and a top-tier SEC team on the horizon, Herman said Johnson has taken to the position like a fish to water.
“He’s a competitive guy, too, so when he makes a mistake he’s hard on himself,” Herman said. “He’s tough. I have no doubt that he will play well, regardless of the competition just because he’s that’s fierce of a competitor.”
Now the focus shifts to the Tigers and the eyes of the college football world will be on Austin with ESPN College GameDay coming to town for the first time since 2009.
Joe Burrow tied a school record, tossing five touchdowns to go along with 278 yards, as the Tigers smashed Georgia Southern 55-3 in the season opener on Saturday.
Herman recruited him, too. He got to know his family and likes that he’s a coach’s kid.
“I don’t think you can, just, say we’re going to dial up a blitz every snap and say we’re good enough to hold up in the back end, especially as smart as Joe is in terms of knowing where his issues and matchups are.”
Herman added that Burrow reminds him of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who tied his career-high with four touchdown passes last weekend and will have his hands full once again come Saturday night.
“This will be as talented of a defense as we have seen in our time here, and it’s not just heavy in one area,” Herman said. “They’ve got NFL players are pretty much every position.”
The lights were bright last week when the season started, but they’ll be even lighter going forward, especially against a team like LSU.
Herman is confident his young team can respond.
“They didn’t care how bright the lights were,” he said. “I thought for the most part they handled it pretty well. The way the game went was certainly helpful because those (younger) guys got their feet wet and now it’s not new anymore.”