Texas Tech football: SaRodorick Thompson on pace for best RB output since 2015

WACO, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: SaRodorick Thompson #28 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Baylor Bears on October 12, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
WACO, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: SaRodorick Thompson #28 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Baylor Bears on October 12, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

With four games remaining, running back SaRodorick Thompson is on pace for the best season from a Red Raider running back since 2015.

There aren’t too many people talking positively about the Texas Tech football team’s offense these days.  It’s not that the Red Raiders have been abysmal on that side of the ball, but the explosiveness that we’ve come to expect from Tech has been missing.

But that doesn’t mean there’s been no Red Raiders step up on offense.  One that has done so more than any other player has been redshirt freshman RB SaRodorick Thompson.

With only four games left to play, Thompson is on pace to run for 825 yards and 12 touchdowns.  That would be the best season by a Red Raider running back in quite some time.

The last 1,000-yard season in program history came in 2015 when DeAndre Washington ran for 1,492 yards and 14 touchdowns.  It was his second-straight 1,000-yard season, the first time a Tech RB had gone over the 1,000-yard mark in the Air Raid era of the program.

But since then, the productivity at RB has been less than impressive.  In fact, you could argue that the running backs have been the weakest overall component of the offense since Washington left.

In 2016, Da’Leon Ward led the team with just 428 yards.  What’s more, his scant total of three rushing touchdowns was the most of any running back as Pat Mahomes was the team leader with 12.

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The next season, Ward was forced to redshirt because of academic concerns so senior Justin Stockton stepped up to lead the team with 797 yards while Tre King had a team-high five rushing scores.  It was the best season of Stockton’s career, more than doubling the 396 yards he had as a true freshman.

Unfortunately, the 2018 ground game was as putrid as we’ve seen in quite some time.  Anytime your backup QB leads the team in rushing, as was the case with Jett Duffey in 2018, it’s not a good sign of your offense’s health.

Starting the year as the third-string QB and appearing in just seven games, Duffey still led the team with 369 yards on the ground.  Meanwhile, the reinstated Ward and freshman Ta’Zhawn Henry tied for the lead among the RBs with 341 yards.  Henry led the team with eight rushing scores, double that of Duffey’s total.

Through eight games this year, the Red Raider ground game has been better than it was last fall.  Tech is rushing for an average of 173 yards per game, 41 more than it averaged in 2018.  And unlike last year, almost none of that has come from Duffey.

Fearful of losing their only healthy scholarship QB with Alan Bowman already sidelined, the coaching staff has not asked Duffey to run the ball this year.  In six games, he’s run for just 93 yards as he’s done most of his work from the pocket.

The three-headed running back committee of Thompson, Henry, and grad transfer Armand Shyne is on pace for 1,783 yards.  That’s over 800 yards more than Tech’s top three RBs amassed a season ago.

So why does this matter?  If the offense is scoring almost seven points less per game than it did in 2018, is the production of Thompson all that important?

The answer is an unquestionable, “Yes”.  This year was as much about finding out what players were going to be part of the future as it was anything else and with three years of eligibility remaining, it’s fair to consider Thompson a player that this new coaching staff can build around.

The 210-pounder has the look of a workhorse back who can carry the ball 15-20 times a game (he’s had two 20-carry games so far in 2019).  That’s something that’s been missing from this program since Washington graduated.

When Tech needs to move the chains on short-yardage or pick up tough yards in the red zone, Thompson is a fantastic option to have in the backfield.   Though he’s a larger back, he’s also proven to be surprisingly elusive as his ability to sidestep defenders is uncanny.

It would be great if Thomspon were a step faster.  Sometimes, he’s been caught from behind on long runs that looked like they might to the distance.  That’s something he will need to work on in the offseason.

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But heading into the season, we really didn’t know what the future of the running back position looked like for this program.  And given that Tech did not sign a running back in the 2019 recruiting class, it was imperative that either Thompson or Henry, the only two underclassmen the program has on scholarship at RB, step up and prove capable of being a significant contributor.  That’s what SaRodorick Thompson has managed to do and because of that, an important piece of the puzzle looks to be in place for years to come.