Daniel Brooks looks to take next step at OU

Daniel Brooks has been here before, starring in the spring game. His real test comes from this point forward.

This script has been written before. For the second straight Oklahoma spring game, running back Daniel Brooks was the talk of the event.

The redshirt junior was able to show the speed that made him such a coveted recruit for the 2012 class, rushing for 154 yards on 21 carries.

The issue now is where does he go from here? Last year Brooks was unable to capitalize on a strong spring game performance. Some would argue it’s because as good as he is, OU is just too loaded at the position. Others would point out he was never really given a chance.

But with this year under this coach, first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, nothing is set in stone. Brooks realizes the opportunity ahead of him.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Brooks about the offense. “I heard it was a spread offense like TCU and some of those other places. Coach Riley said it’s a special offense for me.

“It gives me a special opportunity to showcase my moves and my speed. One thing that makes it efficient is you pass a lot so it gives the running game a chance to spread it out.”

Spreading things out seems to work in line with what Brooks does best. It hasn’t been an easy few years in Norman for Brooks. His career seemed derailed before it even started when he tore up his knee during a long jump attempt at a track meet his senior year of high school.

Brooks spent his entire freshman season simply trying to get back to anything he used to be. It was a long process that also saw him categorized at defensive back initially.

It wasn’t until last year he started to make a little noise at running back. His mentality is different this spring because he knows he has to make his mark when his number is called.

“When I touch the ball, I’m getting the ball in my hand and I’m in the zone,” Brooks said. “I’m focused on my play, my responsibility, what I’ve got to do every snap the entire game, entire practice. That’s all I’m thinking about.”

What has always made Brooks such a unique talent is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He showcased that as well Saturday with three catches for 40 yards.

Known as a football player with track speed, Brooks has returned to the track for the first time in four years. Brooks ran the lead leg of OU’s 4X100 relay team at the Texas Relays, and he hopes to run track as much as he can the rest of the season.

It’s a sign the explosiveness is back. The old Brooks is back with a chance of producing some very positive results.

“Actually this is the first time he didn’t break off something like a 60- or 70-yard touchdown run,” said Riley after the spring game. “He has great speed and is so explosive. He has a place in this offense, for sure.”

How big of a place remains to be seen. Freshman running back Rodney Anderson was out with a sprained MCL. Redshirt freshman running back Joe Mixon was out because of the terms of his suspension from last year.

Sophomore running back Samaje Perine wore a blue jersey because nobody wanted to see Perine get tackled low in a spring game. It’s hard to know for sure where Brooks’ opportunities will come from with such a talented pool of backs at OU.

Brooks said he has a strong grasp on Riley’s offense, admitting he wasn’t always comfortable with the offense the last two seasons. It might have taken a while, but Brooks has found his role in Norman. Better late than never.

“I was happy with my performance, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the team,” said Brooks after the spring game. “I can’t go out there and show my skills if the other 10 men aren’t doing their job and vice-versa. It’s only as good as the whole team, but I was glad I could show what I could do out there."

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