Season OU 11: No. 1 RB Samaje Perine

Sooners' freshman running back takes Big 12 Conference, NCAA by storm

For the next 10 days Sooners Illustrated will count down the top 11 players of the season for Oklahoma as voted by Bob Przybylo and Justin Hite during the season.

No. 1 running back Samaje Perine (74 points)

The second-best running back in his recruiting class, buried on the depth chart in the summer, the No. 3 running back to start the season: Perine was never expected to be here – listed by one publication as the single best/most important player on the Oklahoma roster.

Here he is, though. The top player in the OU 11 by just one point.

But like all his teammates said, no one deserves what he achieves more than Perine.

“You know how good of a kid he is, but when you’re around somebody every day and they go through the process that our kids go through: The classes, the tutors, the weight lifting, practice and the grind,” Oklahoma running back Cale Gundy said. “It’s a consistent deal. It’s day in and day out. It’s who he is.”

The Oklahoma coaching staff felt like Perine could make an immediate impact. He showed his unrelenting work ethic very early – maxing out on the bench press when offensive line might have already given up. It didn’t take long for Perine to show everyone else what he could really do.

By Oklahoma’s fourth game against West Virginia, Perine was the Sooners’ man. In that game, he carried the ball a season-high 34 times for 242 yards. Most of his yards from that game came after he ran through a defender or two – or four.

“He has the frame to do it,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s so powerful and so thick that if you can’t get your arms around him, he can handle the blow and, a lot of times, keep going.”

After Oklahoma’s victory against West Virginia, Perine rushed at least 17 times in all but one game the rest of the season. He finished the season with 6.6 yards per carry and became the first Oklahoma running back to lead the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards per game.

He was named to the freshman All-American team, the regular All-American team and was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

“It’s just everyone knowing their assignments,” Perine said. “Our O-line is great. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“They do a great job of getting their guys and getting movement on their guys. . . . You could have – not to put down any running backs – but you could have any average running back and put them behind our O-line and they could do a phenomenal job.”

Cripplingly painful to tackle and cripplingly humble as well.

In his final three games, Perine never rushed for fewer than 150 yards, never averaged less than 5.8 yards per carry and never scored fewer than two touchdowns.

At first, he was a power running back, but then, he became a stellar all-around back – even running past tacklers against Kansas as he set the FBS single-game rushing record.

“I think he would probably use the term that he’s sneaky fast,” Gundy said. “I know that because I see it. He’s got some pretty good qualities and traits to him. The best thing is his character, his personality. . . . You’re looking for stories about someone who’s a unique kid, he’s pretty good.”

The complete Perine, who had the most first-place finishes this season in the OU 11, came to the forefront against Kansas. He showed every bit of his rushing ability. He outran and ran over defenders.

He also showed every bit of his character.

Perine truly didn’t care about the record, even as he neared the mark.

“When he was probably 80 yards away, he said, ‘I don’t care if you wanna put me in or not. I don’t care about the record. I just wanna play the next play,’” Gundy said. “That just shows what kind of character he has.”

Przybylo’s favorite moment: It's so hard to go against West Virginia because the star-making moment sticks out so much. But being in Norman in person for Perine setting the record is one of those things you simply do not forget. It was a magical moment and clearly the highlight of OU's rather disappointing season.

Hite’s favorite moment: There are plenty to pick from with Perine. He was pretty good in a ton of games. It would be easier to point to his record-setting day or when he led Oklahoma’s rushing attack to more than 500 yards against Iowa State. But me, I look at his coming out party. His game against West Virginia was great. By the end of the game, Mountaineers’ defenders weren’t even willing to tackle Perine, who finished the game with 242 yards and four touchdowns. That’s when his legend was born. Everything else just re-emphasized that message.

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