Oklahoma’s Running Back Battle Continues
When a player walks down the newly made wall of current Sooners in the NFL, they see the former jerseys of Adrian Peterson, Demarco Murray, Samaje Perine, and Joe Mixon hanging up. The statues of Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, and Billy Sims stand just outside the stadium in Heisman Park for everyone to see.
It is these legacies and reminders that tell just one thing–Oklahoma reloads at running back.
Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon leave behind a total of 2,978 yards of scrimmage in the 2016 season. The only other returning running back that saw game action from a year ago is Abdul Adams who tallied 308 total yards from scrimmage. The concerns and questions are fair in that Oklahoma has to replace two of the best running backs in the entire country. However, Lincoln Riley saw something early in fall camp that may hedge the next question about just who will be the one(s) to replace the two-headed monster he had.
“I would say our backs have been one of the really bright spots of camp so far. That competition is alive and well. I don’t see one guy that hasn’t stepped up their game from where they were in the spring.” Lincoln Riley said at Oklahoma’s Media Day on August 5th. “I’m confident about the guys who are going to be running the football.”
The competition stayed alive and well as camp rolled on. With another week under his belt, Lincoln Riley was still uncertain about who was going to be taking the first snap with Baker Mayfield in the backfield against UTEP.
“It is a tight race.” Riley told reporters after practice on August 11th. “They’re all playing well.”
Even after one more day of an elongated “team” period on Saturday (which was supposed to be a scrimmage), as well as a practice on Monday, Riley is still not ready to name his replacement(s) for Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.
“No, I would say still the same.” Riley said about if anything had changed over the weekend.
The public may just see some movement in the running back battle as Oklahoma will have their first live scrimmage of the camp tonight. Riley says he is “excited” to see his running backs live and that he will get a “much better evaluation” of them after the scrimmage.
“Sometimes (with) offensive linemen and d-linemen, you get a pretty good feel live of where they are at.” Riley said yesterday. “Those guys that are carrying the rock have got to run through some arm tackles. It will be a much better evaluation (after) tomorrow.”
Rodney Anderson is the presumed leader in the clubhouse right now. The third year sophomore has yet to play more than a down as a running back at Oklahoma after suffering a season-ending leg injury during the Tennessee game in 2015, and suffering a neck injury that happened during fall camp a year ago. Anderson has been hit-and-miss this camp has he was seen wearing a “non-contact” jersey last week and missed a couple other practices along the way as well. With his status still somewhat up in the air, sophomore Abdul Adams is the perceived number two running back as of right now. JUCO transfer Marcelias Sutton and true freshman Trey Sermon round out the current running back battle taking place.
Oklahoma has a week and a half left of their fall training camp before their first game week of practice begins.