Oklahoma football: RB T.J. Pledger buried talent in crowded OU backfield

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 08: Oklahoma Sooners helmets
NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 08: Oklahoma Sooners helmets /

The 2019 edition of Oklahoma football has something many teams can only wish for: an abundance of talent at the running back position.

The very best college teams in the land may go two deep at the position in terms of quality running backs with playing experience. A year ago, the Sooners began the season five-deep at running back, and that did not account for quarterback Kyler Murray, who ended up as OU’s second leading rusher with 1,001 yards on the ground, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt.

The Sooners entered preseason training camp this season in a similar position, with a running back stable that goes at least four deep and a quarterback who twice has run for nearly 1,000 yards in a season.

By now, everybody who follows Oklahoma football knows about redshirt sophomore Kennedy Brooks and junior Trey Sermon. Brooks, who led OU in rushing last season. will likely begin the 2019 season as the lead Sooner running back, but Sermon has proven his mettle over two seasons and will also see plenty of playing time as a highly capable No. 2 back.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

If you go down one more name on the RB depth chart, you’ll find the name T.J. Pledger. This may be the year for the speedy running back who hails from Pacoima, Calif., near Los Angeles.

Pledger came to Oklahoma as a four-star talent and the No. 5 running back prospect in the country. Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State were especially interested in him, along with Lincoln Riley and the Sooners, as part of the 2018 national recruiting effort.

Pledger appeared in just seven games in his freshman season a year ago. He gained just 179 yards total, 91 of those yards coming in just one game, a 51-14 Oklahoma home win over Kansas State. He’s listed at just 5-foot, 9 inches, 195 pounds, but that size belies how strong he is. He’s runs hard and is hard to bring down, and if you don’t get him to the ground, his speed kicks into a different gear, potentially turning a short gain into a long one.

Unlike his freshman season a year ago, when he was buried pretty deep in the Sooner RB pecking order, Pledger will have plenty of opportunities this fall to show why the OU coaches were so high on him as part of the 2018 recruiting class. The Sooners aren’t only interested in Pledger’s ground production, however. He also fits perfectly in OU’s Air Raid offense because of his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. That is becoming the price to entry for an Oklahoma running back these days.

So in addition to jersey Nos. 2 (Jalen Hurt), 4 (Sermon) and 26 (Brooks), Sooner fans need to keep their eye on the running back wearing jersey number 22, as well. The No. 22 has worked out really well for a number of former OU running backs (Marcus Dupree, David Overstreet, Joe Wylie and Quentin Griffin).

In the not-too-distant future, when Oklahoma fans see the No, 22 on offense, perhaps they’ll be wont to say, “That was T.J. Pledger’s number.”