OU battles: Starting running back

The Game 1 starter is pretty set in stone, but who will play the biggest role by the end of the year

Preseason camp nears for the Oklahoma Sooners, who are looking to rebound from what can only be described as a disappointment.

There’s new blood to lead the Sooners. On offense, Lincoln Riley begins his first season with Oklahoma and his first as a major conference coordinator. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops plans to work from the box this season and has two new assistants helping to mold the defense.

What happens on the field will be more important than what happens on the sideline, though. Oklahoma still has a few battles yet to be decided. Over the next week, Sooners Illustrated will examine those battles.

Running back battle - Joe Mixon vs. Samaje Perine

Who will be the starter by the end of the year?

Case for Joe – It’s safe to say that Mixon’s skillset is much more equipped to excel in Lincoln Riley’s offense than Perine’s burly style.

He’s still all potential, though.

By the end of the season, Mixon could be too good to keep off the field – and that’s what this discussion is about. Perine will start Game 1. There’s no doubt.

Mixon has been getting incredible reviews in spring camp and has been the focus of most compliments – exactly where Perine was this time of year.

Case for Samaje – Did you watch him last year? Dude was a beast.

It’ll be hard to believe that Perine won’t be able to play extremely well in space: one-on-one with a tackler is usually a win for the big back. He also showed a great improvement out of the backfield by the end of his freshman season.

There’s no need to list off Perine’s exploits from last season. It’s happened before – and plenty.

Verdict – By the Big 12 Conference season, this question could have a much clearer answer. For now those, it’s almost impossible to see anyone but Perine as the starter in one-back sets – although the same could have been said for Perine’s meteoric rise to Oklahoma starter as a true freshman.

The real answer might not be in which back is the starter but why Lincoln Riley would ever play without two running backs. Ideally, both show that they need to be on the field consistently.

Ultimately though, Perine is too strong to have the starting job wrestled away from him.

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