Mixon should play a big role for OU

Redshirt freshman running back could have similar impact to Daniel Brooks' spring game output

Picture Daniel Brooks in the spring game, slashing through massive holes plowed open by bruising running back Samaje Perine or cruising into open lanes carved by an effective passing tree.

Lining up next to Perine in two-running backs sets in either a 20 or 21 personnel grouping, Brooks averaged more than seven yards per carry and rushed for more than 150 yards.

He also caught three passes – second-most on the team.

In the fall, that won’t be Brooks, though.

It’ll be a slightly slower but potentially far more gifted ball carrier. It’ll be Joe Mixon, who has a chance to be an elite playmaker for Oklahoma immediately.

“He’s been out for a year, but I’m sure he’s been working out and doing the things he needs to do to stay in tune with football,” Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker said. “You can’t even tell to be honest. He got right up to it.”

Right now, Mixon and Perine have been splitting the reps at running back almost equally, and it’s not because the coaches are worried about Perine’s health. Mixon has proven himself to be a valuable commodity, despite sitting out the spring game and last Friday’s open practice.

“He’s a smart player in understanding what we’re doing and executing well,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He understands where he needs to be in the passing game as well. He catches the ball well. He’s been pretty consistent with all of it.”

Stoops was insistent last year that speed running back Alex Ross wouldn’t line up out of the slot. Likely, nothing will change this year when it comes to Mixon.

While there are no guarantees in a new offense with a new play-caller, Mixon would be most valuable in the backfield lined up with Perine. From there, he wouldn’t be caught up in the intricate passing routes, where he might actually have less space to operate.

“Athletically, he’s just way above par,” Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight said. “Like the rest of the guys, he’s taken to the offense really well. He’s been multiple in different ways for us. He’s gonna prove to be a real asset for us come the fall.”

Watch Brooks in the spring game again. He was used almost primarily out of the backfield.

He and Mixon have clearly different skills, but in this offense, they will play a similar role.

“More than anything, what we probably missed (Saturday) is the energy that he brings to this group,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said of Mixon after the spring game. “He’s just a guy who loves life and loves to play. The guys really respect him. He’s been nothing but a positive influence for the group, not to mention how talented he is.

“He’s kind of a spark plug for this group. You can start to see that develop. We are going to look forward to using him in the fall.”

And using him a lot. Just watch Brooks’ spring game and re-imagine a slightly taller, slightly bigger running with a No. 25 on his back.

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