OU 15 questions for spring '15: No. 13

The 2014 season was a coming out party for running back Samaje Perine, but what will be his role next year?

Oklahoma spring football is just around the corner. Coming off a disappointing 2014 season, all Sooner fans are looking forward to turning the page to 2015.

Every edition of spring practices bring along questions, but there has arguably never been a more fascinating and uncertain spring than the one OU is about to begin.

Sooners Illustrated is here to help. During these next 15 days, we are going to pose one major question each day regarding OU’s 2015 spring football issues.

The countdown will end March 6, the final day before OU’s first day of practice and coincidentally, OU’s second junior day event and OU basketball’s showdown vs. Kansas in a huge day in OU sports. After spring practice, we will revisit these same 15 questions and see what has been answered and what remains left to be figured out.

Question No. 13: How does Samaje Perine fit into the new offense?

Last season, Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine might have been the biggest surprise in the entire nation.

Perine rushed for 1,713 yards and scored 21 touchdowns on 263 carries. He set a NCAA FBS single-game rushing record with 427 yards against Kansas.

This season, the only surprise would be if Perine isn’t a big part of Oklahoma’s offense again. Actually, it would be a mistake – a big mistake.

There’s a new offense in Norman this season – one that likely won’t feature a fullback or anything like the power-run, read-option look that the Sooners’ offense had last season. That won’t keep Perine from being a key in Oklahoma’s offense. Even coaches who pass first know how to use a weapon like Perine, who developed into a decent pass catcher by the end of his freshman season.

Perine caught five passes in Oklahoma’s final three games, averaging more than 10 yards per reception, after just one catch per game through the Sooners’ first 10 contests.

Perine could be even more dangerous in a single-back spread look. With four wide receivers on the field, opposing defenses will be forced into more pass-oriented looks. In a dime defense, usually there’s only one linebacker on the field. Perine would be crazy not to like that as much as new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. In the past three seasons, East Carolina has finished with two 1,000-yard rushers. The lone year they didn’t, which came last season, East Carolina running backs gained 1,972 yards.

A slight drop in carries wouldn’t hurt the Sooners either. Oklahoma will break in three offensive linemen this season, who don’t have a single start and minimal combined snaps.

The run schemes will be simpler because of fewer numbers in the box – as long Oklahoma’s quarterback play and passing game stands up. The run game will be based on quick holes and one-on-one opportunities. That’s works out better for everyone. Even Perine, who was hampered by injury late in the season, would benefit from a lessened workload.

He’ll be the frontrunner and the starter to begin the season, ignoring any unforeseen spring or summer issues.

Really the only thing that might take Perine out of the Oklahoma offense is the heavy depth behind him at running back – Joe Mixon, Keith Ford and Rodney Anderson.

Perine might not have as many carries, but he’ll have more yards per touch. Perine looked good barreling through the line last year, but he was even better in open space – matched up one-on-one with a defensive back.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories