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Frog Feature: TCU RB Emani Bailey has the college football world on notice

The explosive back rushed for 164 yards during TCU’s season-opener against Colorado.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Colorado at TCU Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The TCU offensive backfield didn’t lose a single step after the departure of star running back and third-round NFL Draft selection Kendre Miller as well as veteran back Emari Demercado. Instead, TCU picked up right where it left off on the ground last season, with new starter Emani Bailey torching the Colorado defense over the weekend, rushing for a game-best 164 yards as the Horned Frogs racked up 262 rushing yards in the contest. The breakout performance should be a sign of things to come for the fourth-year junior back, who enters his second season with TCU after transferring in from Louisiana-Lafayette.

Questions were asked as to who would command the lion’s share of the carries after TCU lost Miller and Demercado to the NFL. With Trey Sanders arriving from Alabama, there was a battle during camp for first-team reps, but Bailey has established himself as an explosive playmaker for the Horned Frogs, breaking off a 74-yard rush against the Buffaloes and ending the afternoon with an average of 11.7 yards per carry. The explosiveness shouldn’t come as a surprise for fans who watched the TCU offense last season, where Bailey was primarily the third back behind Miller and Demercado but averaged 8.1 yards per carry.

The big-time outing against Colorado propelled Bailey over 1,000 rushing yards for his collegiate career, which began with Louisiana-Lafayette in 2020. Bailey, whose brother Jordyn is a true freshman wide receiver for the Horned Frogs this season, completed two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns, compiling 702 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. The 5-foot-9 back from Denton, Texas transferred to TCU last season and made the most of limited snaps, rushing for 250 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries while adding 43 receiving yards on seven catches.

The only thing that appeared to slow Bailey down on Saturday was himself, as the running back reportedly missed time during the second half with cramps. But if the explosive outing was any indication, Bailey and Sanders, who was successful in short-yardage scenarios and finished with three rushing touchdowns in the game, should have no issue stepping right into the shoes vacated by the NFL-bound Miller and Demercado. A potent and efficient rushing attack would be the best fallback for a passing offense that gained large chunks of yards, but struggled with penalties and red-zone turnovers during Saturday’s home loss.

Bailey made not be the biggest running back on the field, but his yards-after-contact ability and his shiftiness should make him a reliable weapon for the Horned Frog offense this fall. Size-wise, Bailey compares favorably with former Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who was drafted with the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft this year. Like Bailey, Gibbs shined with the Crimson Tide for his versatility and explosiveness out of the backfield, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and 10.1 yards per reception with 17 touchdowns in 2022. Gibbs should command a large role with the Detroit Lions, who traded veteran back D’Andre Swift and signed David Montgomery away from the Chicago Bears this year.