When Daniel Brooks arrived in Norman as a teenager to play running back for the Sooners, he brought with him the attitude and perseverance of a seasoned vet. Following his impressive performance in the shutout win at K-State last October when he carried 11 times for 41 yds and added 34 more on a tackle-dodging pass reception, Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World detailed Brooks’ injury setbacks to his years in high school. So considering what it’s taken for him get to his fifth and final year of eligibility in the crimson and cream, he’s certainly earned his chance to shine. And the patience he’s shown in doing so illustrates the determination, confidence and character of the 5’8” speedster from Texas the Sooners landed four years ago.
Brooks’ sprinter speed on display as he wins the Texas 3A 100-Meter title as a junior at Calhoun HS:
Amid the injuries over the years, however, fans will also remember Brooks flashing brilliance on a few explosive bursts last season. And as his touches have increased in Lincoln Riley’s system so have his contributions. But the setbacks have continued as well. After a career-high 55 yards on 4 carries against Iowa State last season, he’d soon miss time with an ankle injury and eventually the trip to Miami to take on Clemson in December.
Though OU appears to have an embarrassment of riches at running back this upcoming season, needless to say the ugly head of injury is always lurking at this position. So utilizing this depth is key if the Sooners hope to survive the season unscathed. For a title season to develop OU needs to establish a reliable, productive run game early as the offensive line continues to gel and Baker establishes a rhythm with a Sterling Shepard-less receiving core. Preferably Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon don’t have to shoulder the entire rushing load all season after OU faces three heavy-hitting, top-15 opponents before even getting to the Red River Rivalry in October. Carries may appear limited with Rodney Anderson also getting healthy and Abdul Adams now in the mix, but the dynamic change of pace and speed that Brooks brings should still earn him his share of touches.
Going into last season, he showed optimism after his bumpy first three years in Norman, telling Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman that despite the injuries and even briefly spending time at corner in the spring and summer of 2013, his skill set is perfect for this offense.
“This offense is so spread out. All of us at the running back position have so many opportunities. It’s a chance for me to split out wide. I get some reverses. I line up in the backfield. There are screens. There are a variety of things I can do. It’s a great opportunity for me and a great chance to show my talents.”
He was certainly right then, and if he stays on the field, the same should be true this season as well. The skill on the field when the Sooners are on offense will be tough to handle for every opponent. But we know it takes a foundation of the run to get the whole show started, and OU undoubtedly has the backfield depth to punish and pummel defenses through the entire schedule. If utilized correctly, maybe Brooks and all the backs could enjoy a full, exciting and healthy season.
The right opportunity for Daniel Brooks presented itself with the arrival of Lincoln Riley in Norman, and though his season last year was cut short again, the right time for Daniel Brooks could be now. He’s certainly earned it. And there are plenty of fans ready to see him fly a few more times.