Oklahoma football: Rodney Anderson flying under the radar among top RBs

Oklahoma football is blessed with a horn of plenty at the running back position for 2018, and Rodney Anderson is the best of the bunch.

Anderson had a career-high 201 yards in the Sooners College Football Playoff loss to Georgia, averaging almost eight yards per carry against a team that ranked 12th in the country last season in rushing defense.

The redshirt junior from Katy, Texas, was an absolute beast the second-half of the season a year ago. He was doing it all, running and catching the ball, and he led the Sooners with 1,161 rushing yards, despite seeing limited playing time until the sixth game of the season.

Regardless of his exceptional second-half performance last season, Anderson barely draws a mention in discussions about the best running backs in the country coming into the 2018 season.

The names of Bryce Love of Stanford and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, A.J. Dillon of Boston College and even Justice Hill of in-state rival Oklahoma State

The redshirt junior from Katy, Texas, played in just two games his first two seasons at OU. He suffered a season-ending leg injury early in the Sooners’ second game of the 2015 season against Tennessee, and the following year, in 2016, he injured his neck in preseason practice and missed the entire season.

Even with a clean bill of health upon his return to the gridiron in 2017, it took the running back for whom the Sooner coaching staff had once held in such high regard some time to regain his confidence and shed any complacency that might have set in out of concern for his injury history.

There was also the matter of finding himself several levels down on the OU depth chart behind other talented running backs.

Anderson had just 22 rushing attempts in the Sooners first five games last season for a combined rushing total of 84 yards, with 48 of those yards coming in Game 5 the Red River battle with Texas.

Beginning on Oct. 21, in a game at Kansas State, Anderson’s season completely turned around, and he began to display the power, speed and all-around athleticism that the OU coaches had seen in him when they recruiting him to cross the Red River and come to Oklahoma.

Anderson rushed for 148 yards against K-State and also hauled in four passes for 30 more yards. It was Anderson’s 22-yard touchdown scamper with just seven ticks left in the game that enabled the Sooners to escape with a come-from-behind 42-35 victory.

Until the Kansas State game, Anderson had been running third in the OU running-back rotation behind sophomore Abdul Adams and freshman Trey Sermon. That all changed after Anderson’s breakout game against K-State.

Inserted as the starting RB in Game 7 against Texas Tech, Anderson turned in a second consecutive outstanding performance, powering his way to 181 rushing yards, including a touchdown, and averaging 7.5 yards per attempt.

Anderson started the Sooners’ final seven games of the 2017 season. After gaining just 82 yards total through the first five games a year ago, the Texas native accumulated almost 1,100 rushing yards over the next eight games.

Could the talented Sooner running back be the next Oklahoma Heisman candidate. His 2017 second-half numbers are certainly deserving of him being in the conversation, even if he lacks all the hype and attention being afforded other nationally touted peers.

Anderson is set to have another terrific year wearing the No. 24 Sooner jersey. OU is again loaded with high-quality talent at the running back position (Phil Steele, in his 2018 College Football Preview publication, rates the OU running-back stable as the fifth best in the country entering the new season), and Sooner fans can expect to see Anderson front and center, leading that charge this fall.

It’s time for others outside the Sooner State to start noticing, as well.