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CFF Discussion - VP's thoughts on Texas' RB room
Jaydon Blue, Cedric Baxter, Savion Red, Jonathan Brooks, Keilan Robinson
This is really a beehive of, uh, activity, Halberstam. This place is hot, very hot.
Hmmmm, I see they've omitted the pork loin with lime Jell-O.
- Paul Allen & Patrick Bateman, American Psycho (2002)
We’re back today with a position group profile and this time we’re headed down to Austin. Since arrival, head coach Steve Sarkisian has been recruiting the RB position as well as any program in college ball right now. Having Bijan Robinson torch the Big-12 in back-to-back seasons probably helps with that (it’s definitely not the boosters and massive NIL war chest).
Unfortunately, when you’re recruiting at an elite level, there are negative ramifications for CFF. Chief among them is the potential for a committee at the RB position. Indeed, the Texas RB room right now is a real beehive of activity, with multiple big-time prospects currently occupying the backfield. That’s not been Sark’s MO, though. In fact, he has been quoted on multiple occasions stating that he thinks the offence feeds off of having a bellcow in the backfield. His usage of Bijan and Najee Harris in the last three seasons certainly backs up his claim.
Headed into 2023, Bijan is now with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL (may lord have mercy on his soul), and so the question on our minds is: who will be taking over?
Sark’s RB in the last three seasons has averaged 1391 rushing yards as well as 234.6 carries per year (Bijan was injured in 2021 weighing the average down slightly). Typically, Sark’s backs will see 20+ touches a game. So… yea, this place is hot, very hot. Strap in, grab yourself some lime Jell-O to cool down, and let’s get into this thing.
RB Jaydon Blue — 6’0, 191
Jaydon ‘Blueprint’ Blue is entering his second year with the Longhorns. His recruitment was an interesting one. Blueprint is one of the few high schoolers to sit out of their senior year of football, choosing to conserve his body and prepare himself for the next level. Fair play to him — by the looks of it from the spring game, there isn’t much rust on his tires:
Something else I like is that he has a very ‘Florida’ look to him based on his 247 profile photo. I take that as a good sign for his future production.
That run in the spring game is nothing short of amazing; he even looks a little like Bijan carrying the pig in those clean all-white uniforms. And it looks like Texas still haven’t figured out the whole ‘tackling thing’ in contact football.
Blue finished the day with 10 carries for 52 yards and a TD (32 of those came in the clip above). He also caught 2 passes for 4 yards. I don’t think I can do a better job than the UT beat writers covering the main takeaways from the spring game, so I will simply just quote what is out there:
Overall, Blue played really well on Saturday. However, I think it’s clear that he has things to work on to get even more playing time. Jaydon is going to have to become a master in pass protection, as well as a great option as a receiver to get significant playing time in 2023.
Perhaps he is already there as a pass protector and pass catcher. However, we did not see it in the spring game specifically so we still don’t know for sure. We will find out pretty quickly in 2023 as Texas can’t hold anything back in week two against Alabama.
Carving out a role as a pure runner will be difficult with so much other talent in this runningback room. Furthermore, at his stature (listed at 6’0″ and 190 pounds, but looks more like 5’10”), questions about durability will pop up for him as a true bell-cow runningback.
I’m going to defer to texas-talk.com here, as I’m sure they follow this program closer than I do. The size concern is quite relevant for me as it relates to CFF, it’s generally a prerequisite for any bellcow to have the sufficient frame to handle that workload for 12 games. On the blocking assessment, I think it’s generally hard to assess that in a spring game where contact is limited, but it sort of goes hand-in-hand with his size concern.
RB Cedric Baxter — 6’1, 210
Speaking of sporting a ‘Florida’ look, Cedric Baxter (C4) is a Florida boy. This one was one of the more obvious NIL recruits of the 2023 class, and it came down to Texas, Florida, Texas A&M and Florida State for C4’s signature. I have to start this one off with a special shoutout to yet another central Florida kid from Orlando spurning those lame ass Gators.
Rumour has it Sark and the boys took C4 out to Dorsia on a Friday night (Napier’s staff could only manage Barcadia), and the rest was history.
Baxter finished the 2023 cycle as a composite five-star on 247 Sports, and was rated the #1 RB on 247’s internal ranking and their composite ranking (weighted average of Rivals, ESPN and theirs).
It sounds like 247’s Josh Pate is expecting big things from C4 in his freshman season:
Cedric Baxter was the No. 1 running back in this class. Texas lost some guys, and the guys they do have on the roster have been out at various points, which has given Cedric Baxter time to get some very, very valuable reps in the spring. A guy like him, especially at the position he plays, will be able to transition into college life fairly effectively as a freshman. But when you’re also giving him extra reps in spring, it becomes all the more likely that he’s about to be a player this year
He actually out-carried Blue in the spring game, toting the rock 11 times for 28 yards and a score, he also caught a pass for 7 yards. Unlike Blue, C4 doesn’t have any concerns about his size at 210 pounds already.
If you value the opinion of “Artful_Dodgers” on twitter (why wouldn’t you?), then perhaps we should all be drafting C4 in the first round.
It might not be this year, but I think there’s a general feeling that C4 is going to start at some point for UT. His price in Devy/C2C leagues reflects as much, and he has been touted as the guy who’s going to carry the torch passed on from Bijan. He’s talented; I remember watching his high school tape and being very impressed. However, I doubt that he will open the season as RB1. I like his prospects of taking over in late October/November, though. That is, I’m not going to draft he or Blue, unless there is a clear indication between now and CFF drafts that one has won the job.
Rather, I’ll be there to pick whichever one takes over when the original CFF manager who drafted them discards them by week three—when his or her patience runs out as UT gives carries to one of the older RBs, or even splits carries to open the season.
I know that requires some very out-of-character play calling from our man Sark, but this is a unique situation with multiple potential candidates to be the workhorse. In 2020, Harris was returning from a productive campaign in 2019. In 2021, it was obvious in the spring that Bijan was flat out better than anything else they had. Prior to Alabama, Sark spent two seasons (2017-2018) as the OC for the Atlanta Falcons; he did not have a 1000-yard rusher in either season (in 16 games vs. 12…). Neither team had a RB go over 200 carries. The year prior, Sark’s two lead rushers at USC carried the rock 153 and 169 times (neither going over 1000 yards).
Sark’s track-record and his own quotes suggest that he has a clear preference for bellcows. When looking at track-records of coaches, we are just looking for patterns, and it’s just that, a pattern. It’s not a guarantee that just because coach A has a history of doing X, that they’ll always do that. What we do know is that if there is a player that is head and shoulders above the others, then Sark will feed him.
I probably wouldn’t draft C4 and hope that I can just acquire him off the wire when the time comes (don’t worry, VP’s got you for in-season wire updates…).
RB Jonathan Brooks — 6’0, 200
Here’s where things get awkward (oops). Rising junior Jonathan Brooks, who averaged 10.2 FPG last season over four games, actually appears to have the best chance of being the bellcow, at least to open the season. Here’s what Sark said about him recently:
The one thing I'll credit Jonathan for is every time we've put him out there, he's performed . . . Granted, he was behind two NFL players (Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson). But every time we put him out there - when he was a true freshman (in 2021) or last year - he made plays. He made things happen.
Even in the (Alamo) bowl game when he was somewhat limited and we knew he had to have the (hernia) surgery, he scores two touchdowns. He makes a really big play on a screen and makes people miss (on a 34-yard catch-and-run touchdown). He’s been doing that for us for two years. And so now to kind of see his workload go up and what that'll look like, I anticipate it to kind of look the same.
What does he mean by that last part? My interpretation is that Brooks is first in line to get the lead carry duties (that doesn’t mean he’s going to be getting 20+ a game though, as I try to remind the reader above…), but that vote of confidence from Sark is what you want to see.
Here’s his old high school football coach on what he saw from Brooks this offseason:
He’s very hungry . . . It reminds me of when he was a freshman in high school and wanted to make varsity. He’s got a lot of confidence in his ability, and he should. He’s a special person and talent, and I think his sense is, ‘Hey, it’s my time, and I’m ready.
Very nice. Impressive.
Here’s my take on this: I’m not buying that Brooks is going to be the guy all season. I don’t even buy that he will see the volume Bijan got even if he’s RB1 on the depth chart. I think this is a case of paying service to a kid who’s been in the program for two years, and while yes is probably a very good player, does not offer the upside of the other runners, especially C4. It would be a bad look for UT to not give Blue or C4 significant touches this season, as they are the highly rated recruits, and to keep that train rolling on the trail you’ve got to use these guys early and often.
Brooks does appear poised to open the season as the lead carrier, though. So there is a potential strategy of drafting him and moving him via trade early in the season when everyone thinks he’s going to be UT’s season-long bellcow. Or just hold onto him all season—I mean, I guess it is possible that old Brooksy holds onto the lead dog role and prospers. What a sick turn of events that would be; sort of like UT’s version of Stetson Bennett wining the starting QB job at UGA over former five-stars JT Daniels and BVG. Imagine if that’s what it takes for UT to win a natty again (alright, relax VP…). What?… you haven’t heard? Texas is back, baby.
There are probably only a few scenarios where someone not named Blue, Brooks or Baxter is dominating the carries in this backfield next season… and that includes injury situations. But there are a few other notable names.
The first one that caught my eye is former WR Savion Red (5’10, 215) transitioning to RB this offseason. The rising sophomore carried the rock 9 times for 45 yards for team Orange (Blue and C4 played on team White, which looked to be the potential first team). With him playing with the presumed second/third team and having to master a new position, I’m going to assume he’ll be a situational guy this season behind Blue, Brooks and C4, at least. It doesn’t even look like Fantrax has updated his position, so he offers interest if only for the fact that there is a non-zero (like 0.000001%) chance that Red becomes RB1 for this program while still being eligible in your WR slot.
What in the world is Keilan Robinson doing with his football career? He followed Sark from Alabama to UT when the Longhorns had super-premium five-star runner Bijan loading up for two epic seasons in 2021 and 2022, before he’d be draft eligible. Now it appears history will be repeating itself as Robinson looks to be playing behind at least one of the triple B brothers mentioned above. I’d go into more detail on KR but that just feels like a waste of everyone’s time, and since it’s summer time now I’d much rather wrap this up and head out for a bike ride, ya feel me?
Brooks is more than likely going to be the RB1 on the depth chart to open the season, but I don’t think that will last all year.
C4 is the one I like the most of the bunch but I’m still not going to draft him. My strategy almost never involves drafting any of these five-star freshman who have accrued a ton of hype in the offseason in CFF re-draft leagues. I’ve stated the reasoning behind this stance before. The reason being is that it is simply not worth it, even if you’re spending low draft capital on them. They will more often than not just burn a hole on your roster, taking up a spot in September and even into early October (especially in this case with what we heard on Brooks). At which point you will drop said player and your buddy Chad (who is an alpha male excelling at all aspects of life, and also a VP subscriber…) will pick him up for free just as said player starts to come on around Halloween.
Then the only way you will be able to salvage your ego as Chad knocks you out of the playoff (third year in a row) with your own player popping the **** off will be to come back here and subscribe to this god-forsaken platform of degeneracy, hat in hand, telling me “well shit, VP, you were right again on this one…”, to which I will reply in a tongue and cheek yet forgiving manner “this surprises you?”. It’s at that moment that you realize Chad’s team profile picture on Fantrax is that of a pink animated pig and things start to become clear to you.
What? You thought I was above alter-egos? Been using the alias ‘Paul Allen’ for years. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some video tapes (UGA vs. TCU re-runs)…
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