A week ago, I wrote that Rodney Anderson is a Sooner with a lot to prove in 2017. He’s always had a high ceiling, but has never shown that he can sustain the grind of a long college season. Anderson doesn’t have to prove that he’s talented — the coaching staff has left no doubt about that. He has to prove, rather, that he’s not too fragile to be OU’s answer at running back.
But is he? Taken by themselves, the injuries he’s sustained seem more “freak accident” than “fragile guy.” A leg fracture is pretty par for the course when it comes to running backs, the sort of injury that makes fans hold their breath every time their favorite guy takes a handoff.
And necks? Well, they’re pretty much always on the line during a football game. We loved Samaje Perine’s head-down style, but it could have easily led to the same problem. Stoops even said last year that Anderson’s neck issue seemed minor when it occurred — which is great, because the neck is nothing to mess around with. It sounds like Rodney’s is fine now, and that his non-contact jersey is more of a precaution than a necessity.
So if we can assume that Anderson is due for a healthy season, what might we expect from the 6-2, 223 pound muscleman?
Well as I’m sure you’ve noticed, first of all, the dude is friggin’ jacked. He’s basically Joe Mixon-sized which, considering he’s been limited for two years, is pretty impressive. There are two ways to go when you have a season-ending injury: mope around, feel sorry and get fat, or hit the gym as hard as you can as soon as you can. So I’m guessing Anderson chose the latter.
Baker Mayfield said as much when assessing Anderson after last year’s spring game, during Anderson Comeback No. 1. “He’s gotten bigger,” Baker said, per Berry Tramel. “He’s moving well and he’s a guy that shows it more, kind of like Samaje, when you go full to the ground. He’s getting second and third efforts and it’s going to take more than one guy. He’s not going to be arm tackled.”
Can he be effective in the passing game? Hard to say. Anderson caught one pass for 7 yards in the 2016 spring game so yeah, probably. No doubt Lincoln Riley is testing the versatility of all his backs to see which ones can play which roles — or if one guy can do everything.
Riley’s high praise for Anderson this spring bodes well for his chances. Calling him “smart” and “a freak,” Riley seems at least outwardly confident that he can effectively replace two of the best rushers of the Bob Stoops era. I have to imagine Anderson will be a huge part of that.
Look, I know it’s hard to put any faith in a guy who has one career touch. And goodness knows the Anderson hype train has been chugging along for awhile, with no luck so far. If Anderson turns into a solid role player this season, that would be great. But I think he has the potential for much more than that. And in a season when the position is the most wide-open in years, the coaching staff is looking for someone to take it.
If Anderson can be a star, then anything is possible this season.