Week 1 is in the books with the Oklahoma Sooners defeating the Houston Cougars 49-31 on Sunday evening.
Several Sooners had performances to hang their hats on, highlighted by the staggering numbers of Jalen Hurts in his Oklahoma debut and the dominance displayed by Kenneth Murray on the defensive side of the ball.
One player that had an interesting evening is arguably one of OU’s more intriguing players: Rhamondre Stevenson.
After TJ Pledger was ruled out for Sunday’s game, it became a question mark on who exactly would be the third running back after Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks. Stevenson filled that role.
So, where did he come from?
Rhamondre Stevenson is likely a name many Sooner fans don’t know especially well, so let’s go through his background.
Stevenson went to high school at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In his Junior season, Rhamondre ran for 1,457 yards and 17 touchdowns. His Senior season, however, killed his recruiting stock after he was only able to appear in four games due to a foot injury that sidelined him for most of the year.
In a part of the country that isn’t aggressively recruited, missing that much time in your senior season is going to really hurt your chances at landing at an FBS program.
Stevenson then went the JUCO route, heading to Cerritos Junior College in California. Last year, Stevenson had a monster season, running for north of 2,000 yards and putting up 16 touchdowns.
This caught the eye of Lincoln Riley, and Stevenson made the move to Norman this offseason. Riley has already shown an ability for finding diamonds in the rough at the JUCO level before, perhaps most notably with star wide reciever Marquise Brown, who is now playing in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.
Stevenson entered into a crowded backfield, with returning playmakers in Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks, along with rising star TJ Pledger.
“I don’t think we’ve had depth at running back like we’ve had on this team,” Lincoln Riley said back on August 26th.
After having their #1 running back in Rodney Anderson go down for the season in Game 2 a year ago, Riley and company are glad to have the extra depth that Stevenson provides.
How Stevenson did on Sunday Night
Rhamondre’s Sooner debut was pretty solid overall, finishing up with 6 carries for 47 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown run in the final moments of the game.
Perhaps more telling than the touchdown itself, however, is both the response of Stevenson and trust given from Lincoln Riley.
Stevenson had coughed up the ball earlier in the fourth quarter at a semi-pivotal moment. Oklahoma led the game at the time 42-24, but with around eight minutes or so remaining and D’Eriq King on the field, the game wasn’t completely over at that point.
Despite the mistake, Lincoln Riley went back to feeding Stevenson in the final, game-icing drive. Stevenson responded by ripping a 25-yard run down inside the Houston red zone, and then capped the game off with the touchdown run.
Riley could have easily gone back to Sermon or Brooks (who only had 4 carries on the night), but he chose to stick with Stevenson, who then rewarded him with two great runs to put the final dagger in the Cougars.
What Could His Role be Going Forward?
On paper, it seems like Stevenson is the fourth running back on this team behind Sermon, Brooks, and Pledger.
That does not mean he can’t still be an impact player for the Sooners in 2019. If he emerges and continues to play well in the opportunities he is given, Lincoln Riley will find a way to keep him involved.
The plan going into last season was for Rodney Anderson to be the main running back, with Trey Sermon behind him, and then a collection of Kennedy Brooks, TJ Pledger, and Marcleias Sutton.
That was a group of five guys that were expected to see the field with some regularity, and after Rodney Anderson went down for the season the other four guys all got carries.
Obviously, it is going to be mostly the Trey Sermon show in 2019, but Stevenson is going to see the field every week in some capacity. If he thrives in his moments, his role will continue to grow.
He is undeniably a piece of this offense that could really enhance the depth even more and make the already potent rushing attack even better.
Not to mention the simple fact that injuries happen. That is just the reality of the sport, and especially the running back position. We’ve already seen TJ Pledger have to have a hand surgery that is going to keep him out for awhile, although Lincoln Riley said they “expect” him to be back this season.
Last year Oklahoma had two running backs go down for the year, Stevenson provides a security blanket in case that happens again.
This Week’s Expecations
Oklahoma plays FCS squad South Dakota this weekend and it will likely be a blowout.
This game should provide Lincoln Riley the opportunity to experiment with some play calls and players, so this should be a good chance to see a lot of Stevenson once the game gets out of hand since it is unlikely that Riley would ride Sermon in a game well in hand.
This could be one of Stevenson’s best chances to impress Riley and the rest of the coaching staff in hopes for more carries as the season goes on.
Rhamondre Stevenson and the rest of Oklahoma Sooners will take the field against the South Dakota Coyotes this Saturday at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium at 6:00 on Pay-Per-View.