Oklahoma opens spring practice on March 5 with the annual Red-White game set for April 9.
The Sooners will also hold pro day on March 9 for all departing players. But there are questions abound regarding the Sooners’ outlook for next year. Even coming off an 11-2 season, the Big 12 championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff, the Sooners still have holes that need to be filled.
Over the next week, Sooners Illustrated’s Justin Hite and Bob Przybylo take a look at five major questions surrounding Oklahoma. Here’s one of Hite’s most pressing questions:
Is Samaje Perine back to full health, and can Joe Mixon take the starting job?
In his first full year on campus, Mixon averaged 6.7 yards per carry and 12.7 yards per reception. He led all running backs with 7.9 per-touch average, and his 11 touchdowns tied for second with the Sooners.
He did all of this as the No. 2 running back on the roster and with only half of the carries of Perine, who remained Oklahoma’s workhorse running back for the second straight year. But Mixon’s impact on the offense was obvious. Opposing defenses had to take notice of him, no matter where he was on the field.
Both running backs are coming back, but Perine is probably going to miss all of spring after off-season ankle surgery. So with Perine out, will Mixon take the starting job?
If he does, it won’t last beyond spring.
There’s a bigger question, though.
How much more does Mixon become involved in the offense?
It’s not a shock to say that Perine could use a little bit less of a workload. In two years, Perine has 489 carries. That’s already 16th on Oklahoma’s all-time list, where he’s also already tenth in career yards. Perine is fourth in career yards per carry, and his current pace would make the program leader in carries.
All that said, Mixon might have more ability than Perine, and his big-play ability is through the roof. Taking some of the pressure of Perine would be helpful for everybody – likely making Oklahoma’s offense better, giving Mixon more opportunities and letting Perine’s body recover.
That starts in the spring, where Mixon needs to prove he has earned and can handle more of a role.