The presence of current Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon on the sidelines in street clothes was a fitting reminder that the Oklahoma backfield entered a new frontier this afternoon against UTEP. Lucky for the Sooners, they have a powerful offensive line opening up holes for a young core of backs entering this new frontier. In total, this new young core of Abdul Adams, Marcelius Sutton, Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon accounted for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. This adds up to a little over 6 yards per carry on average for the group as a whole. Here is a look at how each back performed in the opener.
Adams got a lot of looks early on and looked extremely comfortable in the OU offense. The sophomore knew how to find the holes and got through them pretty quickly. He was also able to showcase his elusiveness in the open field and made several defenders miss en route to 53 yards on seven carries. Adams appears to be the lead back at this point and will likely get a good amount of touches against Ohio State next week.
Marcelius Sutton reminds me a little bit of Roy Finch — he is smaller than most of the guys out there but finds a way to get downfield and stay low to the ground as he runs. Like Finch, Sutton also has the ability to catch out of the backfield and block when he needs to. I don't see Sutton being a lead back as the season goes on, but he could be good for some change-of-pace carries and should be quite valuable in the passing game.
Today’s game was Anderson’s first action since the 2015 season, and he was able to score a touchdown from four yards out. That, however, was his longest run of the game. He ended the game with four carries for 14 yards and a touchdown also had one reception for 14 yards. One thing that stood out is that he seemed to block well for Mayfield, a skill which could earn him some additional snaps this season. I expect Anderson to get better as the season goes on. He has the potential to be the lead back but needs more time to get used to the offense and playing football again after two seasons off. Look for Anderson to get some looks at the goal line and in short yardage situations next week in Columbus.
Sermon showed a lot of promise in his debut and showcased his ability as a big, physical runner in the mold of Samaje Perine. He may not be as powerful as Perine, but he looks like he might have a little more speed and could break off some big runs this season. Sermon finished the game with 51 yards on seven carries and looked comfortable in Lincoln Riley’s offense. If Anderson isn't able to figure things out (though I’m confident he will), Sermon could end up splitting lead back duties with Abdul Adams to form a potent one-two punch.
DON’T FORGET FLOWERS
Dimitri Flowers obviously has a different role than the other guys on this list, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get some carries this season. I’m really interested to see how he’s utilized down the line, because the possibilities are endless.
I know that OU fans were hoping for a clear-cut No. 1 back going into Week 2, but it looks like the running back committee will stay intact going into Columbus. If the Sooners are able to get a lead against Ohio State, they will need all of their backs to chip in and chip away at the Buckeyes late in the game. The Sooners may not have the benefit of two NFL-ready backs this year, but all four of these guys showed that they could develop into NFL prospects down the line.