After two of the best running backs to ever tote the rock for the Oklahoma Sooners left for the NFL, there were questions about who would replace all of that production in 2017. Now that the season is well underway, I think it’s safe to say OU has an embarrassment of riches in the backfield. With guys like Trey Sermon, Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson, the Sooners’ stable of backs is the definition of quality depth. Once Adams is healthy enough to go (which should be the case this week), the possibilities at this position are endless.
With so much depth, the Oklahoma coaching staff has decided to employ the running back-by-committee strategy, but with one major difference. The difference is that while the Sooners have used multiple backs in each game, each of these guys have had monster games as the go-to guy. They’ve proven that on any given Saturday, any one of them can explode.
Starting with the true freshman of the trio, Trey Sermon made a name for himself in Week 2 against Ohio State. When Oklahoma needed to grind the game down, Sermon rumbled through the defense with punishing runs. Sermon may be the youngest of the committee, but he’s also the toughest to bring down:
Now I wouldn’t blame you if you had flashbacks of Samaje Perine during the end of that particular run. Like Perine, Sermon is a load, and he almost never goes down after first contact. That’s not just because of his power — Sermon is also deceptively elusive and incredibly patient as a runner, giving him a skill set that surpasses his experience. We should see plenty more of that in the years to come from Trey. The young man is special.
Next is sophomore Abdul Adams. Even though he is coming off of multiple missed games due to injury, he still has the most career experience after being the lone returning back with any real playing time coming into the season. After reports came out that he played most of last season with a hamstring injury, Sooner fans were eager to see what he could do when fully healthy. So what’s the verdict? How about this beauty for a school-record 99 yards?
Adams clearly runs with a quick burst and is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Against Baylor, Adams and Sermon both had monster nights. Adams rushed for 164 yards while Sermon rushed for 148. Remarkably, all of Sermon’s yards came in the 4th quarter, as he played the role of the closer.
Now if you’re looking for the total package, look no further. After missing what would have been his first two seasons due to devastating injuries, redshirt sophomore Rodney Anderson is finally in the fold. When you really dissect it, Rodney Anderson can flat-out do it all. He’s a big dude and he has the power. He has racing speed, so he can outrun defenders to the edge and down the sideline. He’s also a great pass catcher, so he’s reliable in all formations. Oh, and he can also do this:
Anderson is truly an athletic freak. Fortunately for OU, his confidence is also surely at an all-time high after his breakout game against Kansas State. Anderson rushed for 147 yards on 19 carries to go along with this clutch run to win the game at K-State:
It was an incredible run and an overall impressive performance by any measure. After Anderson’s career night, Oklahoma can now say that it has had different running backs each rush for 140+ yards in a game in this season. It cannot be overstated; the wealth of talent at the running back position is abundant in Norman. With Riley liking to go with the hot hand, having three proven commodities comes in handy.
What makes all this depth even scarier for opposing defenses is that all of these guys are underclassmen. Next year this same bunch will be back and more experienced. Also, I have yet to even mention junior Marcelias Sutton, who has seen a fair amount of action this season to the tune of 122 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. If you include a veteran like fullback/H-back Dimitri Flowers — who is sort of in a category unto himself — this group is can be considered one of the deepest in the country (at least as far as quality depth is concerned).
So if any school wants to lay claim to being the true Running Back U, they’ll have a tough time competing with Oklahoma’s current backfield — and an even tougher time competing with it in the future.
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