One of the biggest storylines heading into the 2023 season is the need for the Texas Longhorns to replace Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, who will hear their names called in the 2023 NFL Draft.
While it’s unfair to ask anyone to fully step into the shoes of what will go down as one of the greatest running back tandems in school history, the Longhorns still need to fill the gap in the offense. It’s an integral part of the Steve Sarkisian offense and won’t change in 2023.
While wide receivers and quarterbacks often get accolades in the Sarkisian offense, there is a heavy emphasis on the run, with or without elite talent. In all five years as the head coach of the Washington Huskies, Sarkisian’s offense boasted a 1,000-yard rusher in Chris Polk, who went undrafted in 2012, and Bishop Sankey as the featured backs. That run included two 1,400-yard seasons and was capped by a school-record 1,870 yards from Sankey. In Sarkisian’s one full season as the head coach of the USC Trojans, Javorius Allen, an eventual fourth-round draft pick, toted the rock 276 times for more than 1,400 yards.
Texas fans are obviously familiar with Robinson’s production under Sark, finding his groove as a featured back, which seems to be the coach’s preference.
During the Orange-White game, the Longhorns saw flashes of what may be from some of the young backs on the roster, with Jaydon Blue, Savion Red, and Cedric Baxter getting the lion’s share of the work. While all three flashed at times — including a long touchdown run from Blue — none of them clearly separated themselves from the rest. A possible explanation is that the answer to the question of “who will separate themselves” was sitting on the sidelines during the scrimmage.
Both Keilan Robinson and Jonathon Brooks missed time this spring due to injury and were held out of the Orange-White game on Saturday. Brooks, who was healthy enough to practice toward the end of spring, appeared in seven games in 2022, carrying the ball for 6.6 yards per carry and flashing a mix of speed and power that could earn him the top spot for Texas. Keilan Robinson, who got the start in the Alamo Bowl, is a bit of the inverse of Brooks, speed and elusiveness allow him to serve a versatile role for Sarkisian as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
So for the fall, the question for Texas becomes, which of the immensely talented backs will be the one or will Sarkisian spread the wealth more than he has before as a head coach?