Sooner Football 2015 Position Breakdown: Running Back


Over many years, Sooner football has been blessed with an array of extraordinary talent and the perfect-storm combination of skill, strength and speed at the running back position. The coming 2015 season is further evidence of that historic trend.

OU has needs in several skill areas as it prepares for the 2015 season, but running back is not one of them. In fact, running back may be the strongest and deepest of all of the positions on Sooner squad for next season.

The strength at running back, headed up by last season’s Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in the Big 12, Samaje Perine, could very well be the key to the hurry-up, quick-strike spread offense that new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley wants to re-introduce into the Sooner offensive attack.

Dec 6, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) runs the ball against Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Kevin Peterson (1) during the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Since head coach Bob Stoops came to Oklahoma in 1999, the Sooner passing game has been fueled off of a powerful ground game. And that’s exactly what OU will key off of in 2015 to ignite what should be a much-improved passing game and offer better balance in an offense that was not clicking on all cylinders a year ago.

Perine began his freshman season at OU as the Sooners’ No. 3 running back on the depth chart, but was quickly elevated to starter status and lead back after rambling for 242 yards in Oklahoma’s fourth game of the season a year ago, a 45-33 victory at West Virginia. Perine finished out the season with a league-best 1,713 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, including an NCAA-record-breaking 427 yards on the ground against Kansas.

Oklahoma had never won a Big 12 individual rushing title or finished first in the conference as a team in running the football until the 2014 season.

Perine will be the main man carrying the football again in 2015, but he is not the only threat the Sooners will have in the backfield. Junior Alex Ross returns next season. Ross rushed for over 500 yards last season in a reserve role, and is especially dangerous as a return man on kickoffs.

Oct 11, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Alex Ross (28) returns a first quarter kickoff for a touchdown against the Texas Longhorns during the Red River showdown at the Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the biggest threat among the Sooner running backs hasn’t even made it on the field yet. Five-star recruit Joe Mixon came to Norman with all kinds of hype and hope for the 2014 season, but was suspended before the season even started because of an off-the-field incident in which he was charged with punching a female student in the face. That ill-advised action got him a season-long suspension.

Keith Ford, who was the No. 1 running back on the depth chart to start last season had trouble hanging on to the football last season and had his playing time reduced as a result. Late in the season, he was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, and he announced this spring that he is transferring.

Any way you look at it, the Sooners are well-stocked at running back. Freshman Rodney Anderson and sophomore Daniel Brooks also are talented runners and have shown signs of promise.

The running game alone is good enough to get OU at least eight wins next season. What the Sooners are able to do beyond that will depend on how well the quarterback and receivers are able to execute Lincoln Riley’s new spread aerial attack.

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