Starter: SaRodorick Thompson
Perhaps the biggest news of the Spring for Texas Tech Football was that presumptive starter SaRodorick Thompson will be undergoing shoulder surgery to spend the Summer and likely part of the Fall rehabbing his way back to 100%. Thompson is very much a proven commodity at this point, having averaged 5.6 yard per carry last year in a breakout campaign where he also found the end zone eight times. He is a hard-nosed back that tends to get that extra few yards after contact, and he proved capable at times as a receiver out of the backfield as well. When healthy, Thompson is talented enough to be a three-down back, but the great news for Tech football is that he shouldn’t have to play that much of a workhorse role, nor does he need to be rushed back from his shoulder injury thanks to the tremendous talent behind him.
2nd String: Xavier White
Xavier White is the sort of player coaches love. He is a local product out of Lubbock’s Monterey HS who joined the team as a walk-on at WR. White was asked to switch positions to add some RB depth, and he has done a superb job of that. White averaged 7.0 yards per carry last year as a speed back for Tech, and he paired well with Thompson to keep defenses gassed. Thompson would run them over, whereas White would run by them. White has a propensity for the big play with his explosiveness, with three different carries of 30+ yards in 2020. He is a threat to take it the distance on every touch, which is why he’s likely to continue to see plenty of touches going forward, and perhaps even more in what is likely to be a more wide-open offensive scheme under Sonny Cumbie.
3rd String; Tahj Brooks
Tahj Brooks was an extremely productive and highly regarded running back coming out of high school as a consensus top 100 player in the state of Texas, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be as good as he was so quickly at the college level. Brooks proved to be game-ready upon arrival at Texas Tech, and Tech needed him to be. In the game against West Virginia, Brooks found himself the only healthy back in a game where the Red Raiders had a late lead and needed to burn over five minutes of game clock.
Brooks was trusted to move the chains and did just that, marching Tech all the way out to midfield and melting away all but 42 seconds on the clock to put WVU in a nearly impossible situation needing to march the length of the field, and Tech got the win. Brooks will likely begin the year in a 1a/1b situation with White until Thompson gets fully healthy, and Brooks is more than capable of producing there.
4th String: Chadarius Townsend
Chadarius Townsend is perhaps the best pure athlete on the Red Raider roster, so his limited usage last year was fairly disappointing. He only saw touches in the opener against HBU and in a game against OU that was already decided early. While it was understandable to an extent considering how well Townsend, White, and Brooks played overall, the offensive scheme still lacked significantly in creativity and underutilized Townsend’s abilities. This is a playmaker that Tech needs to get the ball to, and I expect that Sonny Cumbie will find ways to do that. It isn’t every day that Tech has a blue-chip running back transfer from Alabama show up on the doorstep, so the Red Raiders need to take advantage of it. Good things will happen when Townsend touches the ball, and his ability makes him a potential breakout candidate for 2021.
Incoming: Cam’Ron Valdez
Cam’Ron Valdez was one of the highest-rated players in Tech’s incoming recruiting class, sporting offers from schools all across the nation. Valdez isn’t a burner, but he is incredibly slippery and makes quick, decisive cuts when running. He runs through contact often because few defenders seem to be able to get much of a hold of him thanks to his lateral jukes and general body control. Valdez will embarrass plenty of players with his moves in the Big XII, and the only question is when he’ll get his chance to do so. Unless Thompson misses significant time, Valdez isn’t likely to be needed in 2021 considering the depth listed above and may redshirt, but he may prove too good to keep off of the field if he can come in and impress in the Summer and in Fall practices. Still, he’s likely the future reason to be excited about the TTU backfield, and there are already plenty of reasons to get excited about the group’s outlook for 2021.