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Should Tahj Brooks’ Touches Be Limited in 2024?

Brooks' Touches

Could Texas Tech be in for an extreme offensive shift for the 2024 season? Red Raider fans have been accustomed to seeing the ball chucked all over the field for the last two decades. But Joey McGuire has a weapon in his backfield that Lubbock hasn’t seen since DeAndre Washington, James Gray, or Byron HanspardThat player would All Big-12 first-team member Tahj Brooks. With quarterback health being a lingering issue for the Red Raider program, it would make sense to lean heavily on Brooks. But it does beg the question, is there such a thing as too many Brooks touches this season?

2024: Year Of The Running Back

Across college football, there are more recognizable names at the running back position than at quarterback. The Big 12 has four of the top 10 running backs coming back for the 2024 season. Those include defending Doak Walker award-winner Ollie Gordon, Brooks, UCF’s RJ Harvey, and Kansas’ Devin Neal. All four of these running backs can single-handedly win a game for their respective teams on any given Saturday. For that matter, Gordon carried Oklahoma State out of the sewer and rushed them all the way to a Big 12 championship appearance. So if one running back can do that in the Big 12, what is stopping Brooks from doing the same for Texas Tech in 2024?

Top Running Back Workloads

Brooks’ total numbers last year included 290 carries for 1,538 rushing yards. He averaged 118.3 yards per game. Let’s compare workloads from these outstanding backs:

Total Carries

  1. Brooks – 290
  2. Gordon – 285
  3. Harvey – 225
  4.  Neal -203

Total Touches (Rushes And Receptions)

  1. Gordon – 324
  2. Brooks – 319
  3. Harvey – 245
  4. Neal – 228

Total Yards (Rushing And Receiving)

  1. Gordon- 2,062 (1,732 rushing)
  2. Brooks – 1,610 (1,583 rushing)
  3. Harvey – 1,645 (1,416 rushing)
  4. Neal – 1,497 (1,280 rushing)

Overall, Brooks’ touches were at the top of the Big 12 and his production reflected as much. Much like Gordon, Brooks’ touches increased significantly once Big 12 play started. His average carries per game during the non-conference part of the schedule was only 12.3. There were plenty of calls for offensive coordinator Zach Kittley to get the ball to Brooks more. That message was well received. Brooks more than doubled his average touches to 25.7 attempts.

One would argue Brooks had to work harder for his yards as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Brooks led the nation in forced miss tackles with 96. That was 18 more than any other Power Four player. However, with that type of elusiveness, improvement along the offensive line should just equate to greater production with the same workload. Hopefully, new offensive line coach Clay McGuire can strike the right chord to unlock the offense’s next gear.

Brooks’ Touches For 2024 Should Be…

But should it be the same workload? If Brooks had averaged the same 25.7 attempts in all 13 games last season, he would have finished with 334 rushing attempts. That would put him in a tie at 64th all-time for single-season carries. The record is held by UCF’s Kevin Smith from the 2007 season in which he rushed the ball 450 times in 14 games. Going into this season, Brooks currently ranks seventh all-time in rushing yards for Texas Tech at 3,052. He needs 1,168 rushing yards to break Hanspard’s record of 4,219 career rushing yards. Using his same yards per carry from last year (5.30), if he averages 20 carries a game, he will finish the year (assuming he plays in a bowl game) with 1,379 yards rushing.

However, if Texas Tech is going to get out of third gear and legitimately challenge the new-look Big 12, Brooks has to be the focal point of this offense. He doesn’t need to challenge Smith’s single-season rushing attempt record. But it does require this staff to get him going from the start of the season. Especially with teams now having two bye weeks in the season, Brooks’ health shouldn’t be a question. Against all FBS opponents, Brooks needs to average 30 total touches a game for this team to compete atop the Big 12 in 2024.

Brooks' Touches
Photo courtesy: Paul Karge/The Times / USA TODAY NETWORK


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