Week one of the 2017 season served as a nice introduction to the many newcomers in the OU football offensive arsenal.
Even so, Lincoln Riley and the Sooner coaching staff were careful not to provide Ohio State too much to go on in their preparations for the big game this weekend. Forty-two Sooner players saw action in last weekend’s season-opening win over UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso), including a number of new faces.
Fourteen different Oklahoma receivers caught passes against UTEP and seven different running backs, not counting quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, were utilized in the game, four of whom were not on the Sooners’ roster a year ago.
Junior tight end Mark Andrews caught a flurry of passes in the opening half (seven total for 134 yards), but other than that Oklahoma employed a share-the-wealth approach to distribution of the football in the passing game.
Every pass attempt seemingly was destined for a different receiver, and eight different receivers caught multiple passes, making it very difficult for the defense to concentrate on just one or two, or even three, receiving targets.
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It was equally as difficult to keep up with the rotating bodies at the running back position. Sophomore Abdul Adams started the game and saw a lot of action in the early going, but he was followed by Rodney Anderson, the No. 2 back listed on the depth chart. But a pair of newcomers, junior-college transfer Marcelias Sutton and true freshman Trey Sermon, may have been the most impressive of all, and mostly running behind backups on the offensive line.
Adams led the rushing attack in the season opener with 53 net rushing yards and 7.6 yards per carry. Sutton and Sermon each had more than 50 yards on the ground. Sutton has 52 yards on nine carries and Sermon had seven rushing attempts for 51 yards.
Riley said he was going to play all four of the Sooners’ primary running backs in the opening game, and he did.
“I thought they all took positive steps,” the OU head coach said this week in his weekly press conference. “We’re still kind of learning about those guys and what they’re gonna become, but I think they’re all four good players and I think we’re gonna need all four of them as we move forward.”
Of all the 10 Sooner players on the offense unit referenced above, only Mayfield and Andrews saw action in last year’s game with Ohio State.
Whether intentional or not, by utilizing the personnel numbers he did at the skill positions on offense and still managing to pile up close to 700 yards of total offense, Riley was able to showcase the depth of his arsenal without giving away too much in the way of who, when and in what combinations he might deploy his various weapons in Saturday’s marquee matchup against what is expected to be a very stout Ohio State defense.
How this works out remains to be seen, but it certainly will give Urban Meyer and his Buckeye coaching staff more personnel contingencies to plan for than was the case a year ago.