In an article on the state of the Oklahoma backfield following the Baylor game, I left Rodney Anderson for dead (so to speak). The reason for this was because he did not get a single carry in the Baylor game and it looked like he had been relegated to a true reserve role for the rest of the season. This held true in the Iowa State game, where Anderson only received one carry and was a non-factor against the Cyclones despite the absence of Abdul Adams for much of the contest. Fortunately for Anderson, this all changed in the Sooners’ game against Texas.
Against the Longhorns, Anderson ended up carrying the ball 10 times for 48 yards and a touchdown. His 15-yard touchdown run was crucial for the Oklahoma Sooners since the game would later become much closer than expected. In addition to his skillful running, Anderson did a good job blocking for quarterback Baker Mayfield out of the backfield. He can also easily run through arm tackles with his strength and break off big chunks with his speed and elusiveness. Additionally, he does a good job of staying low to the ground on is runs, which allows him to absorb contact and keep moving forward to pick up critical yards in the run game. Here is an example of this on his 15-yard touchdown run against Texas.
This run is impressive because it highlights how much Anderson has improved after appearing a bit timid early in the season. After the initial hole on the left side of the line closes up, Anderson is able to cut back to the right side, find the opening, cut back again, and then stay on his feet after getting hit to find paydirt. In the first couple games, Anderson showed he had the physical ability to be an effective runner but had issues with his vision and cutting ability. This lack of comfortability by Anderson was likely a result of missing two seasons of football due to injury and possibly just not having a lot of in-game experience at the collegiate level. Now that he has a few games under his belt and appears to be more comfortable, Anderson should continue to improve as a running back in this offense. He is starting to understand how to react to movement on the line once he touches the ball, which is what makes a great running back.
Going forward, Anderson will likely have a prominent role in the backfield if he continues to play like he did against Texas. Of course how much he plays also depends on the health of Abdul Adams, who is still out with a foot injury. While it doesn’t look like Anderson will supplant Trey Sermon as the lead back anytime soon, he should continue to get around 7-10 carries and have somewhat of an impact on games.
As I mentioned in my preview last week, the Sooner rushing attack will be pivotal for the team going forward since a strong running game opens up the vertical passing game. Against teams like Texas Tech, TCU and Oklahoma State, this will be of the utmost importance. If the Sooners can get an early lead and then wear the other team down by pounding the rock in the second half, they may be impossible to stop. Although the Sooner defense took a step in the right direction on Saturday, long drives spearheaded by Sermon and Anderson will help keep the defense fresh so that they can play aggressively when they are on the field. This is key because this defense is at its best when they are aggressive and playing press coverage as we saw against Texas, which takes a lot of energy.
After watching the last two seasons from the sidelines, Rodney Anderson could be a key contributor for the Sooners down the stretch. Look for the Sooners to give Anderson some more opportunities to shine against Kansas State this Saturday, and hopefully we’ll se a lot of him even after Adams returns.