It was a fun storyline to bring into preseason camp for Oklahoma. After all the great running backs the Sooners have seen play on Owen Field, junior Samaje Perine had a chance to surpass them all in less than three seasons.
Quite the amazing accomplishment. But one that now doesn’t look like it’s as guaranteed as it was before. Yea, there has been a little bit of a dip in the production of Perine, averaging a career low 4.5 yards per carry.
The reality is, the elephant in the room, redshirt sophomore Joe Mixon has been the best player for OU during the 2016 season. When you’re 1-2, you don’t brag about that all too often. But Mixon has made the leap from being more known for what happened off the field in July 2014 to now living up to that five-star potential.
“He’s easily one of our top offensive players thus far,” offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “He’s made a lot of plays. He’s averaging a lot of yards per carry. He’s made big plays in the receiving game. He’s made big plays obviously in the return game like the other night.
“He’s always been such a high energy team-first guy. In times like this, when you’ve had some adversity, you need all that you can get. And he’s been fantastic.”
The numbers say it, and his teammates and coaches echo it. Mixon is leading the team with 235 rushing yards despite have five less attempts than Perine, who has 149 yards. Mixon is averaging a whopping 8.4 yards per carry right now and also has seven receptions.
Then there’s the certain dynamic Mixon brings as a returner. Mixon electrified the Norman crowd in OU’s loss to Ohio State with the first kickoff return for a touchdown for OU in nearly two full years.
Mixon went 97 yards, and although replays clearly showed he dropped the ball before the end zone, the touchdown stood.
There’s always trepidation among OU fans when its big-time players are back there as returners. The most obvious example is DeMarco Murray from way back when after he got injured on special teams and missed the national championship game vs. Florida.
Mixon showed the other side of it, waking up a crowd that had gone stone cold silent following a pick-six and bringing the margin to 14-7 in the first half.
“First off, he’s a great player and everyone follows him because of that,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “He’s definitely stepped up this year and been vocal and helped lead this team and show by example. I think the whole offense and the team as a whole has really taken to him and listened to him.”
The production isn’t shocking as everybody knew Mixon had five-star talent as a running back and as a receiver. But the constant mention of leadership definitely raises some eyebrows.
For some, Mixon will never overcome what happened after his 18th birthday party when he punched a former OU female student in the face. No matter what he does, how many touchdowns he scores, how much community service work he puts in, it will never be enough.
Head coach Bob Stoops took a chance on Mixon in giving him that second opportunity. From all reports, it has worked. We’re told all the time how Mixon has changed his life around. It’s hard for anybody to firmly grasp the situation since the only time Mixon addressed the media was during Orange Bowl media day, a media circus/fiasco if ever there was one.
Mixon has kept his head low and his nose clean and simply gone out and done everything he has asked of him on the football field, in the locker room and in the classroom.
And now he’s become what so many OU fans wanted back when he signed – the best player for the Sooners.
“I think we have to be cognizant and keep track of the number of opportunities he gets for sure,” Stoops said. “He's exceptional when you do target him and give him the opportunity, so yes."
“He's really matured well. He's been an excellent student. He's never on the list for anything. He does everything you want him to do and been a great teammate. All of it. In the locker room, he's one of the more popular guys because he's a friend to everybody.”null