When people heard the Texas Longhorns were prepared to
take a fullback in the 2011 class, it might not have created the buzz like some
other positions. The fact that fullback was Joe Bergeron, a highly-skilled
athlete out of North Mesquite, it was clear that the Longhorns were not adding
some ordinary, run of the mill slug but a potential major piece to the puzzle
that has become the Texas running game.
Early in the Mack Brown era the Longhorns tabbed Will Matthews as a fullback prospect and the former Round Rock Westwood star had a nice career as a lead blocker for Cedric Benson and Vince Young as the Longhorns unleashed the zone read scheme in 2003.
Since Matthews and former walk-on Ahmard Hall, the Longhorns have struggled to find an adequate replacement at the position but the staff appears to have finally found the guy in the 6-foot-1, 222-pound Bergeron.
Bergeron, rated as the nation’s top fullback prospect by ESPN Recruiting, has been pegged to play H-back when he gets to the 40 Acres and his unique skill set for a big back figures to translate very well to the position. North Mesquite head coach Mike Robinson has taken advantage of Bergeron’s skill set using his blue chip back as a single back, fullback, wingback, and as a slot receiver.
I’ve had the chance recently to watch extended tape of Bergeron’s junior year and also watched Bergeron during North Mesquite’s spring game and based on what I saw, Texas is potentially something special at the fullback/H-back position in the coming years.
What I Liked:
When you watch Bergeron it’s clear that he likes to be a guy who sets the tone. He’s an extremely physical, blue collar player who brings a team an added dimension of physicality. He is definitely not afraid to throw his body all over the place and blast people on impact whether the ball is in his hands or not.
When he’s carrying the football he’s at his best when he’s running downhill. Bergeron defines a back who runs behind his pads and he’s not going to go down on the first hit. He does a tremendous job of keeping his feet moving on contact.
He’s not much of a slasher, but he’s got quick feet and has a little bit of make-you-miss ability in the open field. The key thing is he doesn’t waste movement and constantly shows forward body lean when he finishes runs. He also loves going to the stiff arm move to shuck defenders and shows very good balance to keep his feet.
As weird as it might sound, Bergeron has very good speed, good enough to be a feature back at a lot of BCS conference schools. Usually when he gets into the second level he’s going to make big things happen and the plays he seems to have the most success on are stretch plays, which require a back to have a good amount of patience and burst to see the hole, press it and get up the field.
As far as a receiver, I haven’t seen too many backs better than Bergeron. The pass catching element he brings to the table is what sets him apart from many other big backs. He’s shown he can make plays in space and is the kind of guy who a coach would love to have one-on-one with a defender because he can run by a linebacker and run over a defensive back.
His physical nature and downhill approach to the game is what helps make him an outstanding lead blocker. He’s shown that he can cut block and take on defensive ends on the edge because of his size and quickness and his strength allows him to lead up in the hole and (at the high school level) overpower linebackers at the point of attack.
In all, Bergeron is the ideal candidate for the fullback position at the next level.
Areas for Improvement:
Considering he’s a fullback and likely won’t be a feature back at Texas, I can’t find a whole lot holes in Bergeron’s game right now. However, there are a few things he needs to clean up to really polish his game.
The first is the way he carries the football concerns me. It remains to be seen how Bergeron will be featured in the Texas offense in terms of a ball carrier, but he’ll have to do a better job at protecting the football. He can tend to hold it away from his body, which could make him susceptible to getting the ball stripped.
Also, I’d like to see make his cuts be a little more precise. There are times when he can chop his feet too much when making a cut. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a slasher, but showing a little more ability to stick his foot in the ground and go would help make even more effective of a runner.
I love his attitude as a lead blocker, but I’d like to see him use his hands on more of a consistent basis. That’s no different than a lot of guys at the high school level who can just overpower people, but I’d like to see Bergeron do more of getting his hands into guys and working on one-on-one blocking at the point of attack.
My Grade for Bergeron: A
Since Bergeron is a fullback, it somewhat takes away from his value as a prospect because not many teams use a fullback in college. However, because it’s such a great need for Texas and because Bergeron is the best fullback prospect the state has produced in many years, it’s pretty easy to add it all up and see why he gets an ‘A’ from me.
The Longhorns hoped Antwan Cobb would develop into a fullback when they added him to the 2006 class late in the process, but Bergeron has proven at the high school level that he can do the fullback job is a more athletic and more skilled back than Cobb was coming out of high school.
In short, I see no reason why Bergeron shouldn’t be the player the Texas coaches had hoped that Cobb might become down the line. As an H-back, Bergeron will need to get used to blocking guys at the point of attack, but everything else should come pretty natural since the North Mesquite coaches use him in a number of ways, including flexing him on the line like a wingback.
When you combine his skills, physical nature, speed and athletic ability, knowledge and feel for a spread offense and his work ethic, Bergeron has all of the tools to be a major contributor for the Longhorns.