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Texas running back Keaontay Ingram adds ‘armor’

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 8/3/2019 By Nick Moyle, Staff writer
a group of baseball players playing a football game: Longhorns running back Keaontay Ingram takes a handoff from quarterback Sam Ehlinger on the first day of fall practice Friday. © Jay Janner, Staff Photographer / Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman

Longhorns running back Keaontay Ingram takes a handoff from quarterback Sam Ehlinger on the first day of fall practice Friday.

AUSTIN — Every now and then, Keaontay Ingram will allow himself to gorge on a pizza. He’ll even slip in a few burgers on occasion, especially if there’s no morning practice the next day.

Those few indulgences aside, the sophomore running back has adhered to a strict diet and training regimen. He’s learned the value of the training room. And after playing last season at around 205 pounds, he’s added about 20 pounds of muscle — “armor,” as coach Tom Herman refers to it — without sacrificing any speed or fluidity.

“I really had to change my diet,” Ingram said Saturday morning after the team’s second fall practice. “When I first got here, I didn’t know anything about diet and nutrition. After I got that down, it really had a big impact on my growth.

“I feel like I’ll be able to stay healthy this year. I don’t feel like I’m 223, to be honest with you — still feel like I’m 205. And hopefully I’ll be able to have a big impact on the offense.”

Ingram looks like the breakout candidate for a Texas offense that could be one of the most dynamic in the Big 12. He’s the undisputed top back after sharing the load with graduate transfer Tre Watson in 2018, and the Carthage product is eager to enter this campaign healthy after dealing with a nagging knee injury throughout most of last season.

It was frustrating,” Ingram said of his injury woes. “I didn’t know everything. I didn’t know the ropes. Not staying healthy, I feel like it was a bump there, bump there. And I just couldn’t figure it all out together.

“But this year I feel like I’ve got it all figured out. I’m just going to keep my body healthy, stay in the training room and stuff like that.”

Most true freshman tailbacks at Power Five schools would be satisfied with rushing for 708 yards on 5.0 yards per carry with five total touchdowns, as Ingram did in his first college campaign. But that didn’t come close to cutting it for the former Under Armour All-American.

Ingram deemed his own individual season “highly disappointing” and said he’s anxious to bring “more to the table” as the top talent in this Texas backfield. He also has taken on Watson’s role as the group’s leader, taking true freshman Jordan Whittington under his wing.

Together, the two are expected to play an outsize role as Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck try to keep star quarterback Sam Ehlinger upright. That means a steady infusion of run-pass options designed to open up the field and keep the defense on its heels.

“I’m really excited for our RPO game because it’s going to give our elite running back … a chance to really have a limited box because it’s my job to keep those guys out of the box with a pass,” Ehlinger said Saturday.” Just that little second (of uncertainty) is enough for Keaontay Ingram (or) Jordan Whittington to get another step. I’m really excited about that because I think it’s going to open things up in the running game and the passing game.”

Redshirt sophomore left tackle Sam Cosmi is equally eager to see what the pair can do this year.

“Phenomenal players,” Cosmi said Saturday. “I enjoy blocking for them, I can tell you that. Really close with them. Ingram, I actually got to eat out with him a couple times. Really good guys, really love blocking for them. I tell them all the time, ‘My joy comes out of seeing you get touchdowns.’”

nmoyle@express-news.net

twitter.com/NRmoyle

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