With former Oklahoma running backs (legends?) Adrian Peterson, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon looking on, it was time for the next batch of Sooners backs to show what they can do.
Now you never want to get too high or too low following a spring game performance, but if Saturday was any indication for guys like Marcelias Sutton, Trey Sermon and returning backs like Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson, then let’s not hit the panic button at that spot.
Anderson’s injury combined with Adams’ youth made the Sooners a one-two show last year. An incredible, dynamic one-two of Perine and Mixon, but OU lacked the depth.
It’s too early to know if the production will reach Perine and Mixon levels, but it does appear like the Sooners will at least have their fair share of guys willing to see if they can.
“Just going to depend on how those guys separate themselves,” said offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley about the running back competition. “We’ll know a lot more about those guys when we get to fall. The young guys will now have a better idea of what we’re doing and you’ll get to see their full skill set on display.
“We’ll have Kennedy here by then, Rodney will be full go by then. It will be a different looking room. I wouldn’t pigeonhole ourselves in term of a number because you don’t know how it’s all going to play out. I would foresee all of those guys, at some point, having some kind of role for us.”
Riley is not wrong. It’s easy to forget about what you can’t see, but Kennedy Brooks, who just happens to be OU’s highest-ranked running back signee since Mixon, won’t arrive in Norman until the summer.
It’s not about numbers in a spring game. It’s good Sermon rushed for 73 yards and Sutton rushed for 63 and a touchdown, but it’s not what you take away from a day like that. It’s about feel, about looking as if they belonged on the field. From Sermon’s physicality to Sutton’s vision, that’s where they passed the test.
“We got a lot of depth,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “It’s not just two or three guys this year. We really do have a lot of guys. And Marcelias still isn’t completely healthy. Rodney’s still not full contact just for spring ball, but we got a lot of guys who can make some plays.
“Trey Sermon continues to get better and better. Gonna be high on him and Marcelias to keep getting better, and Abdul and Rodney just to continue to step up.”
As stated before, when you have Baker Mayfield back and you have the top eight offensive linemen back with that group only getting deeper and nastier, it’s not up to the running backs to win games. At least not from the jump.
The experience the Sooners have at other spots is going to allow these inexperienced backs time to settle in and figure it out as they go along. It’s not kid gloves, for sure, but they won’t be asked for 20-30 carries in their first games.
Sermon should be in high school right now. Sutton is from a small town in North Carolina before making his way through the juco ranks. That was Adams’ first spring game. Their stories are different, but they’re all converging in Norman and should have OU fans optimistic about the group in 2017.