TCU football preview: Who will emerge as the Horned Frogs’ leading rusher?

In 2022 TCU had one of the nation’s most prolific running back duos with Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado.
The duo combined for over 2,000 yards and meshed perfectly with the Horned Frogs’ big play passing offense led by Max Duggan and Quentin Johnston. Like the star quarterback and receiver, Miller and Demercado are now in the NFL which forces the Horned Frogs to replace their top three rushers.
It’s a daunting task, but the Horned Frogs have one of the best running back coaches in the country with Anthony Jones and plenty of options to try. The Star-Telegram continues its position previews for TCU’s 2023 season with a look at the running backs.
Running back preview
Players listed on roster: Trey Sanders, Emani Bailey, Cam Cook, Trent Battle, Corey Wren, Derrick Carroll, Brant Ahlfinger, Franklin Estrada II
Production from 2022: Sanders had 14 carries, 80 yards and a touchdown at Alabama. Bailey rushed for 250 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 8.1 yards per carry. Battle had 38 rushing yards and 91 receiving yards. Wren had six carries for 34 yards.
Projected starter: Emani Bailey
Next up: Trey Sanders
Breakdown: TCU will have a new leading rusher this year and sorting the running back position out will be one of the key position battles during fall camp. Bailey and Sanders project to be the two leaders for the starting position after battling in the spring. Sanders was a former top-five recruit in high school before committing to play for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
Sanders dealt with injuries and was always behind a number of talented running backs. Now, Sanders will have every chance to win the job in August. The 6-foot, 214 pound has good size and showcased his power at different points in the spring, but Bailey was the most explosive running back during the spring.
A four-star transfer from Louisiana, Bailey had to wait his turn behind Miller and Demercado but always showcased a glimpse of his big play ability when he got a chance. He’s smaller at 5’9, 200 pounds, but makes up for it his speed and lower center of gravity. Why Bailey over Sanders? Bailey’s big play ability can’t be ignored and he has upside as a receiver in the screen game. The race is tight and Sanders’ prototypical size and power could win out as the practices get more physical.
Battle is another name to watch after showing his versatility as a receiver last season. Battle was solid during the spring, but gave up some ground to Sanders and Bailey. He’ll have a chance to jump back into contention when practice starts in a few weeks. Wren could be a factor on special teams with his speed while Cook is a true freshman with potentially the highest upside of the whole group.
Biggest question: Can any running backs gain separation early or will TCU be forced to rely on a running back committee?
Storyline to watch at camp: How quickly can Cam Cook become a factor in the running back battle? Cook was a four-star recruit and ranked the No. 19 running back nationally in the Class of 2023. Cook could see touches earlier than expected if the veterans leave the door open for him.
Best case scenario: Bailey or Sanders seizes the job in the fall and behind a veteran offensive line, the Horned Frogs have another 1,000-yard rusher with the second-leading rusher providing over 500 yards as well. TCU has one of the top rushing attacks nationally.
Worst case scenario: Bailey and Sanders can’t quite live up to the Miller and Demercado duo leading to a weekly inconsistencies in the run game and a weekly back and forth about which back should get the most touches that week. Eventually the staff turns to younger players like Battle and Cook, who show potential, but have their own struggles as TCU fails to have a rusher with more than 700 yards.
Profile Image of Steven Johnson

Latest Player Notes

If that really was Drake Maye’s last game in Chapel Hill, it provided a fitting full-circle ending

UPDATED NOVEMBER 13, 2023 2:49 PMHere was Drake Maye in the middle of it all late Saturday night, in the middle of the kind ...

Shedeur Sanders closing in on CU Buffs single-season records through pain of all the sacks and hits

PUBLISHED November 13, 2023 at 12:38 p.m. | UPDATED: November 13, 2023 at 12:40 p.m.BOULDER — Shedeur Sanders is closing ...

Tenth Anniversary of Kick Six: Inside video, "Official" look at Historic Iron Bowl Shocker

Published Nov. 13, 2023, 6:00 a.m.By Creg Stephenson See and hear history behind Kick Six (excuse the ads, but this is ...

Goodman: Jimbo Fisher is out and Nick Saban wins again

Updated: Nov. 13, 2023, 10:00 a.m.|By Joseph GoodmanJimbo Fisher is out at Texas A&M, which goes to show that even when a ...

Huard on Huskies: Why a win over No. 10 Oregon St would be huge

The No. 5 UW Huskies’ quest to make the College Football Playoff went through the two-time defending Pac-12 champions on ...

USC’s loss to Oregon exposes clear flaws in program-building up front

EUGENE, Ore. — In January, Lincoln Riley was on the sidelines at SoFi for the College Football Playoff championship game, ...

Two years after winning school-record 12 games, Brady Hoke out as Aztecs football coach

Brady Hoke is out as San Diego State’s football coach.SDSU released a statement Monday morning saying that Hoke is retiring, ...

Oregon’s Bo Nix named Pac-12 offensive player of the week for third time in 2023

Oregon’s Bo Nix earned his third weekly honor from the Pac-12.Nix, who went 23 of 31 for a season-high 412 yards with four ...

Oregon Ducks’ head coach Dan Lanning mentioned as a leading candidate for Texas A&M job

Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning has been mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Jimbo Fisher as coach of the Texas ...

After ‘tough day,’ Boise State AD searches for a football coach; defensive analyst promoted

Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey was on the job for less than a week the last time he began a search for a football ...
See More Player Notes