On the evening of Aug. 10, the 2023 Texas football recruiting class added the nation’s top-ranked running back prospect in the extremely highly touted four-star Edgewater (FL) product Cedric Baxter Jr. Texas landed this commitment from Baxter over three of his other top schools in the Miami Hurricanes, Florida Gators, and Texas A&M Aggies.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian, new running backs coach Tashard Choice, and the Longhorns clearly got a massive win on the recruiting trail this week by landing this uber-talented Florida native Baxter. This is also big because Texas is getting recruits in the 2023 class that are ranked as the top quarterback and top running back in the country, at least according to a few of the major recruiting services.
Texas fans have to be excited about what they’re getting in Baxter as a potential ace for the future of this running back room. Landing this commitment from Baxter also continues Texas’ skill position, specifically at running back, recruiting success out of state.
Sark and the Longhorns have also secured a commitment from the elite five-star Isidore Newman quarterback and Louisiana native Arch Manning. If you look specifically at the running back position, it was just a few cycles ago that Texas secured a commitment from five-star Salpointe Catholic product Bijan Robinson.
Getting Baxter in the mix also means that the Longhorns have a truly elite top trio of skill position commits in the 2023 class. It’s now the trio of Arch, Baxter, and five-star DeSoto wide receiver Johntay Cook that highlight the skill position commits in the 2023 class.
Texas football gets the prize RB target in the 2023 class with 4-Star Cedric Baxter Jr.
Moreover, what Texas is getting out of the 6-foot-1 and 215-pound Baxter is an extremely powerful and endurant running back that could get starter-level reps right away. He’s a bell cow that can handle at least 25 rushing attempts per game.
In terms of his durability and downhill running style, Baxter has a bit of an old-school running back feel to him. He’s able to line up in some of those traditional one and two running back sets and do some real damage to opposing defensive fronts almost no matter how he’s schemed up.
Once Baxter gets going, it’s insanely difficult for opposing tacklers to successfully get him to the ground. He’s got a very effective stiff arm and strong lower-body build that gives him multiple tools allowing him to shed tackles at all levels of the defense.
What makes it even more difficult for opposing defenders to bring down Baxter in the open field is his apparent elusiveness and tremendous cutting ability. Most running backs of his size just aren’t able to cut north and south and east and west the way he does when he has the ball in his hands.
One of the aspects of Baxter’s game that jumps off the film at you is his jump cut ability and vision to quickly cut and find the open lane. You don’t need to open up a gaping hole for Baxter to make his way through multiple levels of the defense off the line of scrimmage.
Baxter is quick and decisive enough to find some smaller developing holes, which is where his combination of size and quickness really comes to the forefront. Getting those 10+ yard runs on inside zone calls and running off tackle will be commonplace for Baxter at the next level.
The quickness in tight spaces for Baxter is what makes him look like some of the smaller and more elusive running backs while still maintaining that downhill running style that someone of his frame possesses.
One of the biggest knocks against Baxter tends to be his speed in the open field. Some view Baxter as limited in terms of his home-run ability. But he’s still timed in the past with a 40-yard dash of around 4.5 seconds. That’s still pretty fast for a running back of his size and stature. If he can maintain, and maybe even build on that speed he’s going to be something special at the college and NFL levels.
Don’t forget that Texas has a real home-run threat in star junior running back Bijan Robinson that doesn’t necessarily have the most galvanizing open-field speed. Bijan isn’t going to be the fastest running back at the 2023 NFL Draft Combine. But he’s still likely going to be the first running back off the board on draft night 2023.
College and NFL scouts don’t care as much about pure home-run threat potency in a running back in the modern game as they do having someone such as Bijan that can get those 10-15 yard runs on a regular basis.
That is the same trait that Baxter will likely bring to the table for the Longhorns running back room.
Moreover, there are going to be a ton of comparisons that you get with Baxter now in the Longhorns 2023 class. At this point in time, it’s pretty difficult to pin down the player that he most resembles at the college or NFL level.
Baxter is still developing his body and improving his speed. He also has yet to fully blossom as a sort of jack-of-all-trades running back.
But one interesting comparison that I could see both in terms of development at the college and NFL levels, along with similarities in his recruiting profile, is the former Indiana Hoosiers star Tevin Coleman. During his three seasons playing for the Hoosiers, Coleman became a real workhorse at the running back position, peaking with 270 rushing attempts during his junior season in 2014.
Coleman also wasn’t well known as a capable receiver out of the backfield or out of the slot when he first arrived on campus in Bloomington. But he steadily developed as a capable receiver during his time at Indiana. And he truly blossomed as a versatile wideout from the running back position in the NFL with the likes of the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.
This is similar to Baxter in the sense that he isn’t commonly utilized as a receiver out of the backfield at Edgewater High School. There is now plenty of camp and combine film out there showing Baxter’s effectiveness as a receiver.
This Sark offense should be able to really open up his game and maximize his underrated ability to pose a threat in the receiving game. There could be a little bit of Coleman in him in this regard as he transitions from high school football to the college game.
Furthermore, a few other comps that Longhorns fans will likely hear concerning Baxter’s profile coming out of high school likens him to Darren McFadden and Cedric Benson. McFadden I could see, but Benson had more power than we can see from Baxter’s running style in his high school film.
At best, I could see Baxter turning into sort of a bigger hybrid version of the Indianapolis Colts superstar Jonathan Taylor. Baxter has that quick cutting ability and downhill running style that Taylor brings to the table for the Colts.
All in all, it’s easy to see why this is a massive commitment for the Longhorns. From day one, Texas is getting a workhouse out of the backfield in Baxter. He can get 25-30 rushing attempts week in and week out and be effective in the process.
Baxter has also proven to be an effective pass blocker and pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Texas is now up to two running back commits in the 2023 class after landing Baxter on Aug. 10. The other running back commit in the Longhorns 2023 class is the touted four-star DeSoto product Tre Wisner.
Landing this commitment from Baxter is probably going to round out the running back recruiting for Choice and the Longhorns in the 2023 class.