NORMAN – The Oklahoma Sooners coaching staff hurt for running back Rodney Anderson following his second-straight season-ending injury. The players weren’t sure how bad it was until they were finally told.
Anderson walked away from the Oklahoma practice field under his own power Friday afternoon before the rest of the team following his injury. He can move and walk under his own power. He just can’t play after a neck injury took away his redshirt freshman season.
Lincoln Riley, who found out about the severity a couple hours after practice Friday, had no doubt Monday that Anderson would come back even hungrier by this time next year. Riley also has to know that the Sooners have to move forward without Anderson at this point, turning the attention to true freshman Abdul Adams and senior Daniel Brooks to fill in behind the talented duo of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.
“We’ll need those guys to certainly step up,” Riley said.
Since coming to Oklahoma in the summer, Adams been on a steady climb of development – much like Mixon was last year. There haven’t been too many peaks or valleys for the former four-star recruit, even though much of the last month has come through trial-and-error growth. That growth isn’t being rushed because the Sooners still have Brooks, who is the back-to-back reigning offensive standout from the spring game.
In his second full season in Riley’s offense, Brooks said he feels more comfortable and more secure. Last season, Oklahoma’s running backs accounted for 61 carries behind Mixon and Perine. Brooks has 36 career touches at Oklahoma but 28 carries last season.
“It’s going to be like the same,” Brooks said. “I’m just going to have to step up and take that load at the No. 3 spot. Abdul is going to have to step up, too, to learn the system as quickly as possible. It’s a challenge, but it’s similar to last year. Stay in tuned with the system and listen to your coaches.”
Replacing Anderson at running back might not be easy, but it is pretty simple. Either Adams or Brooks will take his reps. Oklahoma running backs and special teams coach Jay Boulware said that finding a replacement for Anderson on special teams will be a much bigger challenge.
Anderson played a significant role as a blocker and might have even wound up being the Sooners’ off-returner for kickoffs.
“That’s tougher to replace because he was a starter in those positions,” Boulware said. “. . . You’ve kind of like I penciled him in to be there. Now, he’s not. So now, I kind of got to shuffle the deck a little bit. It’s the same thing we do all season, but now I’m doing it preseason.”
Last year, Anderson was lost in the second game of the season and the Sooners had Alex Ross, a proven running back with more than 100 career touches who has since transferred to Missouri. The situation is obviously a little bit different.
Brooks and Adams will likely both factor into carries behind the Sooners’ elite duo.
“Somebody’s got to be that third back for us and step up and be the guy that we can count on,” Boulware said. “. . . Right now, Daniel needs to step up and be that guy. He’s a senior. And Abdul needs to step up and be better, too, so we can have those guys pushing each other and being ready to go as well.”