August 30, 2009

Countdown to kickoff: No.7 - Fozzy Whittaker

Name: Foswhitt Whittaker

Position: Running back

Classification: Sophomore

Prep credentials: The former Pearland star was a three-star prospect (5.8) who was ranked as the nation's No.6 all-purpose (behind Noel Devine, Armando Allen, Raymond Carter, Chris Rainey and Shane Vareen) and as the No.174 overall prospect in the nation by Rivals. Whittaker was ranked as the No.26 overall prospect in the state by Lone Star Recruiting and ranked No.27 by Rivals..

Click here to see Whittaker's high school film

2008 stats: Whittaker played in seven games (two starts) as a red-shirt freshman, rushing for 284 yards on 64 carries (4.4 YPC), while also catching 10 passes for 51 yards as a receiver out of the backfield.

2008 Honors: None

Click here to see Whittaker's 2008 highlight film

Best game in 2008: Whittaker probably looked his best in his collegiate debut, as he rushed for 76 yards on 12 carries (6.1 average) against UTEP in El Paso.

Scouting Report: As the 2009 season approaches, it feels a little like Ground Hog Day when we have a discussion about the third-year running back from the Greater Houston Area. It was at this time last year that Whittaker's game was generating some real buzz from within the program, but when push came to shove in a 13-game season, he proved to be nothing more a footnote in the season review.

Fast-forward back to 2009 and Whittaker is once again expected to be a major factor in the Texas running game - an area with the same exact questions as it did a season ago. Health was a major issue for Whittaker last season and it kept him out of several games. Although he's never had a major injury, Whittaker is going to have to prove that his diminutive frame can handle the rigors of major college football. In fact, it was a sprained knee in August that robbed him of any real chance of competing for the starting position heading out of camp this year.

When Whittaker is healthy, he brings a versatile array of skills to the table. Quicker than he is fast, Whittaker's first-step acceleration is very good and his ability to go from the first level to a defense to the third level is as sudden as anyone in the Texas running back stable. That initial burst is a little deceiving though because his outright speed is not on an elite-level. He's at his best when he's able to stay between the hash marks, get his shoulders squared and make a quick decisions/sharp cuts. When he's in the middle of the field, Whittaker has confidence in cutting in either direction and he's most effective when he's in a position to change angles on his path. His confidence as a runner is not nearly as strong when he's outside of the hash-marks and pinned against the sideline.

One area where Whittaker can be develop into a force is as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, especially on screens, but he fights the ball at times as a receiver and it's still an area that needs some improvement. In a perfect world, Whittaker would be an idea third down running back candidate, but he's best suited for traditional first- and second-down action, which makes his running style and overall skill set very similar to starting running back Vondrell McGee.

Also, it's interesting to note that Whittaker's two best games from a Y.P.R (yards per rush) standpoint (minimum five carries) came in games on the road against teams with an artificial surface. The change of the home stadium from grass to field-turf could have a positive impact on his ability to make an impact during home games last season.

The big hope… Whittaker helps for a terrific one-two punch at running back with McGee and the Longhorns running game begins to take off.

The big worry… He won't be able to stay healthy or he's just not an impact player at this level.

Did you know? His first name was created by using a combination of his dad's first name (Foster) and the first half of his last name (Whittaker).

NFL Scouting report: "I didn't see enough last year from him to have a true opinion, but he's a little guy and he's going to need to have something special about him in order for us to have an interest."

The bottom line: This is a big year for Whittaker, who is entering his third year in the offense, because the coaching staff has high hopes for him, but he has to stay healthy. If he can do that, his numbers will rise across the board. If not, the Longhorns will probably start looking at other options heading into 2010.

No.8 - Justin Tucker
No.9 - Lamarr Houston
No.10 - Dan Buckner
No.11 - Eddie Jones
No.12 - Tre Newton
No.13 - Emmanuel Acho
No.14 - John Chiles
No.15 - Kheeston Randall
No.16 - David Snow
No.17 - Curtis Brown
No.18 - Malcolm Williams
No.19 - Keenan Robinson
No.20 - Vondrell McGee
No.21 - Blake Gideon
No.22 - Adam Ulatoski
No.23 - Ben Alexander
No.24 - James Kirkendoll
No.25 - Jared Norton

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