CJ Baxter Jr. knocking on the door for starting reps out of the backfield
Another position battle we noted on the last part of this list is at running back. Redshirt sophomore Jonathon Brooks is the starter at running back heading into the regular season, with true freshman CJ Baxter Jr. grabbing a firm hold on the backup spot on the two-deep.
Brooks secured the first-team job at running back coming out of fall camp. But Baxter has progressed a lot in the last few weeks of fall practice heading into the season opener.
Baxter has reportedly made the competition at running back so close that there could be a very even split in reps between him and Brooks out of the backfield heading into the season.
Orangebloods reported on Aug. 26 (subscriber content) that Baxter has come on strong in the last two weeks of fall practice. Baxter’s rise late in practice/camp heading into Week 1 has reportedly led to increased buzz surrounding his potential to get a larger role in the backfield throughout the season.
Baxter makes more sense as the starting running back that can set the tone for the Longhorns on the ground if Sark wants to run more inside zone early in games. Baxter is the bigger of the two backs between him and Brooks at 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds. He is a better bell cow back to set the tone in the zone running back than the smaller Brooks, at 6-foot and 207 pounds.
However, Brooks is the more experienced and proven of the two backs. He would be the safer option for Sark to roll out on the field as RB1 early in the season, especially if he wants to mix up personnel packages and run more screens for the backs.
If one thing is clear, though, we know that Baxter will play a very significant role for Texas out of the backfield this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if Baxter has as many, or even more, live-game reps and carries by season’s end than Brooks. He fits the ideal Sark bellcow back mold more naturally than Brooks.