clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 TCU Football Preview: Running Backs

Who starts at running back for the Horned Frogs next season?

One of the key reasons we saw the season we did from TCU Football last year: the play of the Horned Frogs’ running backs.

Kendre Miller, who’s now long-gone and will be taking carries with the New Orleans Saints this upcoming season, helped lead TCU to the playoffs and the NCAA Championship game.

Averaging 6.2 yards per carry, Miller ran for 1399 yards and 17 touchdowns during TCU’s best season of all time. He scored a touchdown every game, with the exception of the Fiesta Bowl when he left with a knee injury, and ran for over 100 yards versus seven teams: SMU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Texas.

Now, with Miller gone, there will be some room in TCU’s locker room for a new running back to step up and continue the play of Miller. Can the Frogs’ ground game still dominate the Big 12?

Key Returners: Trent Battle (redshirt sophomore, 6’1, 205), Emani Bailey (junior, 5’9, 200)

Key Losses: Kendre Miller (New Orleans Saints), Emari Demercado (Arizona Cardinals)

Key Newcomers: Cameron Cook (freshman, 5’10, 180), Trey Sanders (Alabama transfer, senior, 6’0, 214)

Who will be the Frogs’ starting running back?

Well, with the only running backs returning being last season’s third and fourth string running backs, Coach Sonny Dykes is going to be forced to tinker a little bit at the beginning of the season and during off-season practices.

He’ll probably do something very similar to the beginning of last season, in which he rolled out a ‘committee’ of sorts. In the Frogs’ first game against Colorado last season, Miller took eight carries, while Demercado took four and Bailey took two.

This season, we could see something very similar. In the Frogs’ first game this season, again versus Colorado, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Bailey carry it eight times, while Battle and newcomer Trey Sanders battle for the other six carries.

Battle, who’s talent we’ve really yet to see, should see a lot more playing time this season. He was redshirted in 2021, and only took nine carries last season, but with Miller and Demercado gone, now could be his time to shine.

He’ll have to compete for snaps with Bailey, who should be the Frogs’ starting running back, and who averaged 8.1 yards per carry on 31 attempts in 2022, and Sanders, who should see much more time than Cook after leaving Alabama’s locker room.

Sanders, who went through a serious car accident in November 2020, didn’t see much opportunity with the Crimson Tide. He only appeared in five games last season – now, he should get a lot more touches.

Projected Depth Chart:

  1. Emani Bailey
  2. Trent Battle
  3. Trey Sanders
  4. Cameron Cook

In replacing Miller, who was one of college football’s top running backs last season, the Frogs will need to push the inexperienced Bailey, Battle and Sanders over the edge. Looking at tape, all have talent to showcase, and all should be able to provide for TCU this season.

While unlikely, one of these players could see themselves having a season exactly like Miller’s. Remember – not a single soul projected Miller to have the season he had last year. While Dykes will likely roll out a ‘running back by committee’ approach, it’ll limit their chances, but as he did last season, Dykes may pick his ‘bellcow’ early on.

Yet, although they’re all solid options, the Frogs don’t have anyone returning in their backfield who’s produced consistent results as a No. 1 running back. The talent is unproven, and it could be a major issue coming into the season.

Another, the Frogs lost Alan Ali and Steve Avila, two All-Big 12 Conference First Team members and two big reasons why Miller succeeded the way he did.

Looking at Miller’s carries over film, I’m consistently left aghast at the holes that were consistently opened for him all season long. Even if Bailey, Battle and Sanders show their talent, the running game may take a step back simply because of the inexperience on the offensive line.

There’s still a lot of questions that need answers, and in TCU’s most anticipated seasons in recent years, expectations are high. Can one of these three running backs live up to them?