Oklahoma football: Ohio State’s gain does not mean a loss for OU

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 09: Trey Sermon #4 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs with the ball during the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 09: Trey Sermon #4 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs with the ball during the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

I’m sorry, but the news that Trey Sermon is transferring to Ohio State does not mean that the Buckeyes have pulled off a giant coup and that the move results in a giant gain for OSU and a big loss for Oklahoma football.

But that’s what I’m reading or at least reading into the news reports covering Sermon’s announcement or where he will be playing in 2020.

We can all agree on one thing, though. The now former Oklahoma running back is a very good football player, and he will get a better opportunity to show how good he really is at Ohio State, albeit with just one year of eligibility remaining, than at OU.

That, in a nutshell, is why he has elected to forego his final season of eligibility after three seasons as a Sooner for the scarlet and gray of Ohio State.

Sermon was a highly rated recruit in Oklahoma’s top-10 2017 recruiting class. He turned down offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, and even Ohio State, to go out of his home state of Georgia and play college football for Bob Stoops at OU.

In his freshman season, in just his second game as an Oklahoma Sooner, Sermon gathered in a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield that put the Sooners ahead to stay in a 31-16 win at Ohio State.

Sermon, who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered late in the 2019 season and would not have played in Oklahoma’s annual Spring Game, is stepping into a excellent position at Ohio State if he is able to return to 100 percent following his knee surgery. The Buckeyes head into the 2020 season lacking depth at the running back position.

OSU’s loses one of the best in college football with J.K. Dobbins declaring for the NFL Draft. Sophomore Master Teague, who ran for over 700 yards as Dobbins’ backup last season, presumably would have moved into the starter’s role in 2020, but he is also recovering from an injury that could force him to miss the beginning of next season.

Voila! The timely announcement of Sermon on his way to Columbus, Ohio.

Sermon spent his inaugural season at OU behind Rodney Anderson, who gained 1,161 yards on the ground and had a sensational 203-yard rushing, two-touchdown performance in Oklahoma’s overtime loss to Georgia in the 2017 College Football Playoff. Sermon took over the starting role after Anderson suffered an ACL injury two games into the 2018 season, but began sharing the duties with redshirt freshman Kennedy Brooks midway through that season.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

Sermon began last season as the Sooners lead running back, but with quarterback Jalen Hurts assuming the majority of the ball-carrying duties, Sermon’s playing time as well as his rushing attempts dropped off considerably. He had a third as many carries in 2019 as he did the year before and he gained over 500 fewer yards than his 947 in the 2018 season, his best as a Sooner.

Eventually, he lost his starting job to Brooks, who is expected to remain in the role in the lead role for OU in 2020.

Sermon did not want to end his college career as a backup. He is talented enough to start for virtually any other major college program, and he is being given an opportunity to do so at Ohio State.

The Buckeyes like to run the ball, and that should be music to Sermon’s ears. He is going to have to show, however, that he is able to handle the increased load that likely will be expected of him at Ohio State.

Dobbins had 230 rushing attempts for 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns in his sophomore year in 2018. Last Season, he carried the ball 301 times for an Ohio State single-season record 2,003 yards. The All-American also had 23 catches as a receiver in 2019.

Sermon has never carried the ball more than 164 times in a season, and that was two seasons ago. He had only 54 rushing attempts in nine games last season.

Barring unforeseen injury, Oklahoma still has good depth at running back, led by Brooks. The Sooners will be without the services of Rhamondre Stevenson, who ran for 515 yards last season, to begin the 2020 campaign. He will be serving out the final five games of a suspension handed out at the end of last season.

Stevenson’s absence, however, will give former four-star prospect and U.S. Army All-American T.J. Pledger the opportunity to step up. He has been four deep on the depth chart his first two seasons at Oklahoma, and 2020 could be his year to rise and shine.

A member of the 2017 Sooner recruiting class — the same class that brought CeeDee Lamb, Charleston Rambo, Brooks and Sermon and the last under Bob Stoops — Pledger was rated the No. 5 running back nationally by Rivals and No. 6 by ESPN.

Behind Pledger, the Sooners have redshirt freshman Marcus Major and highly-touted true freshman Seth McGowan, who received offers from Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Texas before committing to Oklahoma. Major is from nearby Oklahoma City and McGowan is out of Dallas, Texas.

Don’t get me wrong. Oklahoma and head coach Lincoln Riley would have loved to have Sermon for his final college season. He certainly wasn’t being run off. It’s easy to understand his motives, and he will undoubtedly receive plenty more touches at Ohio State than he would have next season as a Sooner.

Acquiring Sermon is a definite plus for  Ohio State — which the experts are giving a better chance to reach the national championship game next season than Oklahoma — but his absence is by no means a negative for the Sooners.