College Sports

Bears counting on ‘Little LT’ to carry ground game against Tech

To teammates and casual observers, Baylor running back Shock Linwood bears a strong facial resemblance to another notable rusher with Waco connections: LaDainian Tomlinson, the former TCU and NFL standout.

Linwood, a redshirt freshman coming off last week’s career-best 182-yard performance against Oklahoma, does not see it. But safety Ahmad Dixon believes the new face of the Bears’ ground game, who projects to get his first career start Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington against Texas Tech (6 p.m., KDFW/Ch. 4), has more in common with LT than a familiar profile.

“He looks like him. I agree with that,” Dixon said during Monday’s news conference. “He’s built like him a little bit. To me, they run a lot alike. You can call him ‘Mini-LT’ or ‘Little LT.’”

Bears fans should hope Linwood, who earned Big 12 offensive player of the week honors Monday, displays plenty of Tomlinson’s legendary durability when No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) seeks to extend the best start to any season in school history against the Red Raiders (7-3, 4-3).

Linwood, normally a third-teamer, projects to carry the brunt of the Bears’ ground game on his shoulders against Tech. He was listed on Monday’s depth chart as a co-starter with two more experienced backs who were injured in last week’s 41-12 rout of then-No. 10 Oklahoma and sound like long shots to take the field against the Red Raiders.

Officially, coach Art Briles said leading rusher Lache Seastrunk (groin) is considered “day-to-day.” Glasco Martin (knee), the team’s primary power back, has been listed as doubtful. That leaves Linwood (5-foot-8, 200 pounds) as the only healthy back on the Baylor roster with more than 31 carries this season.

The increased profile has the redshirt freshman from Linden-Kildare, a Class 2A school, feeling some pressure as he prepares to make his first college start on national TV in JerryWorld.

“I’m nervous. For right now, I am the go-to man at that position,” said Linwood, who has rushed for 625 yards and seven touchdowns this season (89.3 yards per game). “That puts a lot on my plate for the week. I have to prepare myself 10 times as much as I did [last week] because I’ve never had a Big 12 start. There’s a lot on my mind right now. I’m just going to study, study, study. There’s so much to learn, but I think I can handle it at a decent rate.”

Coaches and teammates expressed more confidence than Linwood about the freshman’s ability to keep the team’s ground game rolling while Seastrunk and Martin are on the mend. Briles said his primary concern about Linwood rests with “not getting him hit too much until we get everyone back” because of Baylor’s lack of depth behind him.

In terms of Linwood’s ability to produce, Briles said he expects more of what he saw against OU: a blend of speed and power that resulted in 23 carries for 182 yards (7.9 per carry).

“Shock is extremely intelligent and he plays with a tremendous amount of passion,” Briles said. “He’s a guy that delivers. If you give him an opportunity, he’s going to take advantage of it.”

Linwood played multiple positions on both sides of the ball in high school but was lightly recruited. He got his opportunity to play at Baylor because his former high school coach, Jerry Bennett, is the brother of Bears defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. While redshirting last season, Linwood made an indelible impression on Bears defenders.

“He runs really low to the ground and he can change direction in a half-second, just on a dime,” linebacker Eddie Lackey said. “That’s the most impressive thing. That’s what makes it so hard to tackle him.”

Teammates liken Linwood’s physical running style to that of Jacksonville Jaguars’ back Maurice Jones-Drew, a comparison Linwood embraces. Dixon said defenders sought to toughen Linwood in practices last season by hitting him after the whistle because they knew he would not complain to coaches.

“Now, he’s making plays in big games,” Dixon said. “To see him doing that, it’s like having that little brother that emerges into a grown man and he’s doing everything he needs to do.”

Until Seastrunk and Martin can contribute at full speed, Linwood projects to handle the brunt of the Bears’ ground attack during games that will have major BCS implications. Even if Linwood is nervous, quarterback Bryce Petty said he expects him to produce.

“Shock’s going to step up great,” Petty said. “He’s a Texas football player, through and through. Tough, physical. He can run between the tackles or outside the tackles. He has a skill set that not many people have.”

Deep inside Rashodrick “Shock” Linwood, Dixon said there are plenty of traits the freshman back shares with LaDainian Tomlinson, the future Pro Football Hall of Famer. Even if Linwood cannot see the connection when he looks in the mirror.

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