Standout back Samaje Perine has a chance to become Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher by the time this season ends. That’s a pretty heavy statement, if you think about it: doing so would mean overtaking some of the best backs to ever play the game. Rushing leaders four through one are terrific company to join. In ascending order, the list goes Steve Owens, Adrian Peterson, Joe Washington, and Billy Sims. It’s practically a Mount Rushmore of running backs.
Any sane man would become light-headed at the thought of being in such dizzying company. Luckily, Samaje is no sane man. When asked if his potential record-breaking was on his mind, Perine flatly responded “No. I can't think about stuff like that. I'm just doing whatever I have to do to help the team win.''
Luckily, his teammates and coaches are less humble about his talents than Perine himself is. In reference to a question about Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield, Bob Stoops went out of his way to mention Perine as another possible candidate. I can think of only a handful of times where Stoops has even acknowledged the existence of the Heisman award.
Mayfield spoke about what an honor breaking the record would be, even though Perine would never admit it: “[The record] is pretty special and I know he’s not worried about it,” adding that he’ll do everything in his power to get Samaje the ball and smash the record.
So, let’s break down what Samaje needs to accomplish leapfrog Sims, Peterson, and company in OU’s all-time rushing yard records.
Perine stands at 3,062 career rushing yards and needs 1,056 to reach Billy Sims’ record. He had 1,349 and 1,713 yard in 2015 and 2014, respectively. If he plays in every single game—not a guarantee considering his ankle surgery in January—he needs to average just 88 yards per game to reach the mark.
It seems entirely doable, perhaps even likely, that Perine will pass Billy Sims as OU’s all-time leading rusher. The Big 12 has, according to many, regressed this season. Only five of their opponents (Ohio State, Houston, TCU, Oklahoma State, Baylor) are in the preseason Coaches Poll top 25. Three of those five games are in the first four weeks—meaning that if Perine has a shaky start like last season, he’ll have plenty of time to get going,
Although they had an atypically disappointing finish in the 2015-2016 season, TCU’s defense looks to be Perine’s biggest bump in the road to smashing the record, with honorable mentions going to Texas’s and Ohio State’s squads. The Horned Frogs were plagued with injuries last season, but as of now they’re healthy and returning a lot of talent. Defensive end Josh Carraway and linebacker Travin Howard will be their linchpins in stopping the running game.
Samaje Perine has a chance to become the best running back in OU history, but you’d never hear it from him. Luckily the media and his teammates exist to sing his praises. Regardless, we, as fans, get the chance to witness greatness as we have so many times. Pay attention, because you’re not going to want to miss Perine…as if you could.