The Texas Longhorns have been living right for most of this season. Despite coughing up big second-half leads the past two weeks against Kansas State and Texas Christian, the Horns are 9-1 (6-1 conference) and sit atop the Big 12 standings.
Saturday's win over TCU came with a cost when the team's leading rusher, Jonathon Brooks, suffered a season-ending injury midway through the fourth quarter. After a 7-yard gain on his 21st carry of the game, Brooks went down and was taken to the injury tent after being helped off the field.
Pete Thamel of ESPN reported the extent of Brooks' injury as being a torn right ACL that will end his season.
Texas tailback Jonathon Brooks has a torn right ACL and will miss the remainder of the season, a source confirms to ESPN. He projected as one of the top running backs ? if not the top ? in the upcoming NFL Draft. He?s now likely to return to school after surgery and rehab.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) November 12, 2023
Before suffering the injury, Brooks rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries against the Horned Frogs and set up another score on a 73-yard catch-and-run.
Brooks finishes his season with 1,139 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on 187 carries, also adding 286 yards and a score through the air. After stepping up to replace the departed Bijan Robinson, who left for the NFL following last season, Brooks was projected as the top running back in the 2024 NFL draft, according to Mel Kiper of ESPN.
"We're heartbroken for Jonathon," coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement. "He was having a fantastic season and leaves a void that needs to be filled. But we know he will continue to be an invaluable leader on our team, helping us prepare as we move forward in our mission this season. I know he'll work extremely hard in his recovery, get back to full speed as soon as he can, and we will be there by his side supporting him through all of that."
Brooks will certainly be hard to replace, but Texas has a contingent of backs who could share the load. They include CJ Baxter, a five-star recruit who signed with the Horns as the nation's top back in the 2023 class.
Sarkisian initially named Baxter as the starting tailback before the season opener against Rice, but injuries and his inability to force defenses to miss tackles through the first month prompted Sarkisian to insert Brooks as the starter.
Over his last six games, Baxter has shown improvement, rushing for 300 yards and averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He carried the ball 18 times for 61 yards against the Horned Frogs.
Other options include sophomore Jaydon Blue and senior Keilan Robinson. Each has a small sample size of experience, however. Blue has 190 yards rushing in his two seasons with the Longhorns. In seven carries this season, Robinson has 49 yards on the ground.
Through 10 games, Texas is averaging 183.4 yards on the ground. The Longhorns have two games remaining on their regular season schedule: a road game against Iowa State and Texas Tech at home. One or both of Brooks' replacements have big shoes to fill if the Horns hope to keep their running game intact.
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