Texas Football: Looking Into Jordan Whittington's Position Change

Tomer Barazani

The Whittington saga began when Texas left the 2018 season with a hole to fill for the running back after the departure of grad transfer Tre Watson. Texas entered spring ball in 2019 with Keaontay Ingram as the one proven back following a freshman campaign where he split carriers with Watson. The only other scholarship running backs on the team at the time were Daniel Young who has yet to receive more than ten carries in a season at Texas, and incoming freshman signee Darrien Brown who had suffered a devastating stroke just a month after signing with the team. Early enrollee Jordan Whittington, who coming out of high school was listed as a 5-star athlete per 247sports Composite. Although a vertical athlete in high school, Whittington was primarily recruited as a wide receiver for Texas after totaling over receiving 3000 yards throughout his high school career at Cuero, leading them to their 4th state title in 2018. After many discussions with coaches and Whittington, Tom Herman eventually announced they would be moving Whittington to running back at the beginning of spring practice due to the lack of depth at the position. Whittington spent the entire 2019 off-season developing as a running back and eventually earned his place under Ingram as RB-2 on the depth chart heading into the season opener against Louisiana Tech.

After clocking two receptions and not a single carry out of the backfield, Whittington suffered an injury in the second quarter against LA Tech that re-aggravated a lingering sports hernia he received during his time at Cuero. The news came as a shock to Longhorn Nation when Tom Herman announced that Whittington would be out for an extended period of time. Fans were anxious to see what Texas would pull out of their pocket to yet again fill an extremely depleted running back room that was now left with only two healthy scholarship backs. Recognizing another position change at running back was imminent, Herman announced Texas would begin developing freshman quarterback Roschon Johnson at running back with hopes to fill the RB-2 role in time for the much anticipated LSU game. Johnson had never played running back in his life, thus granting Tom Herman a win in the player evaluation department as Johnson went on to have a shockingly exceptional season as the second running back in the Texas spread offense, racking up 663 yards on the ground at 5.3 yards per carry and 8 total touchdowns in 2019.

After not returning for the remainder of the 2019 season and undergoing his third surgery to repair his hernia, Texas left Whittington to make his own decision on whether he would like to continue to develop and compete at running back or return to the position that he was originally recruited to play as a Longhorn, wide receiver. This decision comes after watching Roshcon Johnson excel in Whittington's intended running back roll during the 2019 season and after Texas signed Bijan Robsinson, the #1 running back in 2020 class per 247sports Composite. Heading into spring ball, Texas fans knew that regardless of whether Whitington or Roschon decided to return to the positions they first believed they’d be playing at Texas, the running back room would finally be deep with enough talent to rely on moving forward. Since winter workout began, sources close to the team have been reporting that Whittington intends to be making his return back to wide receiver as that is where he believes he has the brightest future at Texas. On Monday Feb. 10th, Longhorn Nation received word from Whittington himself via his Twitter bio that he is now a, “Wide Receiver at the University of Texas”. What went into this decision likely boggled down to his view on an increasingly competitive running back room. 

Whittington’s recent decision now allows for Rochson to make the easy decision to continue developing at running back. The Texas quarterback room is only growing with the signing of two new talented freshman quarterbacks that are ready to compete with sophomore Casey Thompson for the starting job after Sam Ehlinger’s eventual departure. Roschon is likely to continue to make a substantial impact at running back moving forward following his breakout season. For Whittington, he sees a chance to compete on the outside of the Texas offense at the Z receiver position, notably held by sophomore Brennan Eagles in 2019. However, sources close to the team believe that Texas will move Eagles to the Y position in spring ball following the departure of its recent holder, star receiver Collin Johnson. If new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich decides to keep Whittington on the outside, he will have to compete with freshman receivers Marcus Washington and Kennedy Lewis for the starting role. Yurcich may also allow Whittington to compete with freshman Jake Smith in the slot during spring camp, as that is where Whittington was most productive as a receiver at Cuero. Wherever Whittington lines up, his unique skill set will allow Yurcich to use him in a variety of ways. There is no doubt Texas has major plans for Whittington as a receiver in 2020 and beyond.