CJ Baxter Jr., RB
True freshman running back CJ Baxter Jr. flashed on a few plays in the first half of the regular season. Baxter registered his first career rushing touchdown in the win over Baylor on the road on Sep. 23. He also had a big game in Texas’ 40-14 win over Kansas at home on Sep. 30, with a career-best 67 rushing yards and two catches for 16 yards.
One of those two catches was a nice one-handed snag by Baxter that helped Texas move the chains for a first down.
While Baxter flashed in multiple games for the Longhorns in the first half of the regular season, he was overshadowed by redshirt sophomore running back Jonathon Brooks. Brooks broke out in a big way in the first half of the regular season, earning AP Midseason First-Team All-American honors after putting up career numbers in the first six games.
Baxter and Brooks were originally set to split reps out of the backfield heading into the regular season. But a combination of injury issues for Baxter in the season’s first few weeks and a streak of four straight games with over 100 rushing yards meant Brooks got the lion’s share of the rushing attempts in the first six games.
I can’t really blame Sark for giving Brooks over twice as many carries as Baxter in the first half of the regular season. Brooks emerged as arguably the best running back in the Power Five this season, carrying the Longhorns in multiple games when the offense was stalling through the air.
With Baxter having multiple weeks to rest up and prepare for the stretch run this regular season, he’s primed for a more productive and consistent second half to his freshman campaign. Baxter should lighten the load on Brooks against some beatable opponents in the next few weeks.
The next two teams Texas faces in Big 12 play, Houston on Oct. 21 and the BYU Cougars on Oct. 28, are allowing at least 4.5 yards per carry this season (ranking in the bottom five in the conference). Texas will have opportunities for big games on the ground in the next two weeks, which could mean some career outings for Baxter.