Keilan Robinson proving to be a jack-of-all-trades for Texas football

Keilan Robinson, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Keilan Robinson, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The depth in Texas football‘s running back room came to the forefront again last weekend in the demolition of the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 8. Texas’ ground game went for 296 rushing yards on a season-high 50 attempts (good for 5.9 yards per carry), with three rushing scores.

Much of that production on the ground came from the standout running back duo of junior star Bijan Robinson and senior Roschon Johnson. These two combined for 187 rushing yards on 31 carries, with two rushing scores. The duo also added more than 50 receiving yards on five carries, further showing their impact on this game.

But it was more than just Bijan and Roschon that had a big impact on this game for the Longhorns among the running backs. We also got to see a decent dose of redshirt junior running back Keilan Robinson and sophomore Jonathon Brooks in the win over Oklahoma.

Keilan really showed the impact he can make on a game in multiple different ways in the win over Oklahoma. Despite being on the field for just under a dozen offensive snaps in this game, Keilan did a little bit of everything it felt like for the Longhorns.

Against Oklahoma, Keilan took multiple snaps running routes, blocking for the run, and carrying the ball himself. But it was the way that Keilan was utilized in these three phases of the game that truly showed the versatile weapon he can be for this offense.

Of the four rushing attempts that Keilan had in this game, half came in the outsize zone and the other half came between the gap. Meanwhile, when utilized as a route-runner, Keilan motioned five times and lined up out of the slot, backfield, and out wide.

You can see the devastating effect that utilizing Keilan in all these different ways had against Oklahoma for head coach Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns’ offense. Sark was able to layer concepts in a rather simple, yet extremely effective way.

I do want to mention, though, that I am by no means saying that what Sark drew up was bland or lacking creativity. It was very effective, but simple when explaining the progressions of the concepts.

Sarkisian finds ways to add wrinkles to the offense utilizing Keilan Robinson

In one of the first drives of the game against the Sooners, Sark was constantly motioning Keilan around pre-snap to create the space necessary to get the ball to his skill guys with room to run.

The first play I’ve highlighted here shows an amazing call from Sark that features play action, motion, and a reverse screen pass all in one play. It all starts with Sark motioning Keilan out of the right wide receiver spot to the left side of the field to draw the linebacker’s attention away from the backfield and get the DB to play further off the line of scrimmage.

Motioning Keilan out has now created the necessary space to get someone in the open field with room to run near the right sideline, which is also the easier spot for Quinn Ewers to pass the ball. That sets the next progression in motion (no pun intended) for this play to happen where Ewers goes play action to get Roschon out of the backfield.

We can then see Ewers turn to the left so it looks like he’s targeting Keilan on a swing pass to the side he was motioned out to. This keeps all the attention from the OU defenders on the left side of the field where it looks like Keilan is about to get the ball on a swing pass.

All the while, Roschon is open out of the backfield with pulled blockers in space on what goes for a 38-yard reception.

In the very next play, Sark utilizes a similar pre-snap look and motion for Keilan to the left side. But he adds a wrinkle with the reverse motion for Keilan to pivot out of the backfield and swing back out to the right side. The play action draws the OU linebackers and safeties to the left side of the field since they have their full attention on stopping Bijan, thus creating an open lane for Keilan to run in space.

Texas football RB Keilan Robinson showing his effectiveness in multiple phases of the game this season

To cap this drive, you see another motion play with Keilan after he’s lined up as the boundary wide receiver to the right side of the line. Keilan clears out the extra DB that is shading star sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy. Ewers is able to hit Worthy on a 10-yard touchdown pass since the star wideout has a favorable one-on-one matchup without the safety help over the top.

The three consecutive play calls from Sark here do a great job of utilizing the versatility and potency of Keilan in the receiving game. The threat that Keilan poses as a receiver in space works as a pawn in some plays. But the threat is real enough that opposing defenses must take it seriously on each play where he’s a target.

You can see the threat he poses come to life when he’s able to get the ball in space on the second of those three play calls before the second touchdown of the game for Texas.

The beauty of these play calls is that Keilan fills a role that compliments that of Bijan and/or Roschon very well, not to mention how it works with some of the Texas wideouts. Keilan is a jack-of-all-trades that can turn on the burners when he gets the ball in his hands with room to run.

Texas’ offense has more versatility and explosiveness with Keilan Robinson on the field

Despite his versatility and explosiveness in multiple phases for the offense, Keilan wasn’t utilized all that often, at least in the passing game, for the first few weeks of the season.

The first time that we really got to see Keilan get involved as a primary target in the passing game this season was in the loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders a few weeks ago. Sark had the three top running backs all lined up in a shotgun formation with Hudson Card early in the game against Texas Tech.

A play-action call to Bijan drew the Texas Tech defenders up, allowing Keilan to get open on a swing pass to the left with blockers down the field in Whittington and Ja’Tavion Sanders. That play in the first half against Tech was the first touchdown of the season for Keilan and is still the longest catch of the year for the fourth-year junior.

Last weekend, Keilan caught his second touchdown pass of the season on a swing pass after he was motioned left out of the backfield. Similar to the swing pass to Keilan that went for a touchdown against Tech, the running back had wideouts blocking down the field for him, creating the open lane to the end zone.

It helps that Keilan is plenty fast enough to burst through those lanes when they open up off of screen and swing passes.

Given the success that Texas has found in the last few weeks, I would like to continue to see Keilan involved in the offensive gameplan in a plethora of different ways. With him on the field, especially on clear passing downs, he gives another potent dimension to this offense, which makes life extremely challenging for opposing defenses.

Versatility comes to life on multiple sides of the ball

But it’s not just on offense where we’ve witnessed Keilan making an impact on games dating back to last season. He’s also proved to be a playmaker on special teams.

In fact, Keilan scored the first touchdown of the season for the Longhorns on a scoop and score that he took into the end zone off a punt block from senior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison. That is the second special teams touchdown that Keilan since the start of last season, good for most on the team.

Keilan is one of the integral parts of the special teams unit for Texas, regardless if it’s with the coverage or return team. He’s taken more than 200 snaps on special teams since the start of last season.

It’s worth noting that Keilan and Roschon are the only two Longhorns players that have taken more than 200 snaps on offense and on special teams since 2021.

Now, we’ve talked a lot about the impact that Keilan has on the offense in the passing game and on special teams. But it goes without saying that has averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 55 rushing attempts in the last two seasons for the Longhorns also shows that he is more than capable of doing his job on the ground.

The fact that Bijan and Roschon are ahead of him in this loaded Texas running back room just means that his workload is going to be lighter on the ground. Utilizing his versatility in other ways, such as adding different wrinkles to pre-snap sets and motions, and getting him involved in the screen and swing passing game makes more sense for the time being.

A few numbers that do a nice job illustrating the impact that Keilan had on this team so far this season are 4.95 yards per route good (good for best in the FBS among running backs) and his 84.5 offensive grade (third best among Big 12 running backs). Despite his limited role at the outset of the season, Keilan has still managed to be about as efficient as he can possibly be when he’s involved on offense.

To sum this up, the impact that Keilan had on the offense in multiple ways in the last few weeks along with his continued playmaking on special teams proves why his role for the Longhorns should continue to expand for the rest of the season. Keilan is proving to be too effective in too many different ways to keep him off the field as much as the staff did for the first few weeks of the 2022 campaign.

Next. 10 key recruits impressed by Texas' win over OU. dark

Texas carries a record of 4-2 (2-1 Big 12) following the dominant 49-point win over Oklahoma in Red River on Oct. 8. Next up for Keilan and the Longhorns is a matchup at home at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Oct. 15 against the Iowa State Cyclones.