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Can Tahj Brooks take next step, become feature back in 2022?

The junior has shown star potential sporadically, but can 2022 be the year he becomes a consistent lead back?

Iowa State v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Two games into last season, I was convinced Texas Tech was going to produce its first 1,000-yard rusher since DeAndre Washington in 2015.

Tahj Brooks, a sophomore from Manor, eviscerated Houston and SFA for 237 yards and four touchdowns to the tune of 9.1 yards per carry in the opening two games of the 2021 season. I knew those numbers weren’t exactly sustainable over the course of a Big 12 schedule, but his breakaway speed, tough running, and elite vision made him a viable candidate to cross that elusive 1,000-yard threshold.

Injuries and the return of SaRodorick Thompson hampered Brooks’s playing time, and while he still finished the season as Tech’s leading rusher, he never became the feature, clear-cut No. 1 back for the Red Raiders.

Thompson is returning for his super-senior campaign, and that’s unequivocally good news for the Tech offense. It’s imperative to have a threatening 1-2 punch in the backfield, regardless of whether Zach Kittley airs it out 60 times per game. All championship teams since the inception of the forward pass have always possessed adequate run games and that will not change for the 2022 season.

That said, two running backs sharing carries in a pass-heavy offense isn’t exactly an ideal formula for producing a 1,000-yard rusher. However, it remains permissible for one of the backs to take control of the No. 1 spot in the RB room through exceptional, consistent play.

Brooks can be that guy, and if he does prove capable of becoming a top back in the Big 12, imagine what he can do with another offseason under his belt when he returns for his senior season (barring a ridiculous 2022 season the prompted an NFL departure).

Take a look at the competencies Brooks displayed on some of his best runs a year ago.

Home run ability

Tough running ability

Brooks’s excellent vision is the common denominator in each of these runs, and what makes him such a promising candidate to lead the team in rushing for a second consecutive year. It’s what separates the 4-yard totes to the 38-yard sprints, and subsequently the good college backs from the future NFL players.

It’s not always the players with the best physical tools who do the most damage on the grounds, and Brooks has the necessary intangibles to pair with impressive athleticism to develop into a star running back in this conference and beyond.