Lincoln Riley says transfer RB Tre Bradford was a swing and miss

Lincoln Riley said OU's move to the SEC is "going to be a positive thing for this university and state."cover
Lincoln Riley said OU's move to the SEC is "going to be a positive thing for this university and state."cover /

The subject of running back depth and the unexpected departure of LSU transfer Tre Bradford dominated Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley’s weekly press conference on Tuesday.

The Sooners running back situation, now down to just two scholarship players at the position, was the obvious elephant in the room as the OU head coach held his weekly gathering with the media that cover the Sooners ahead of the season opener with Tulane.

With the 2021 opening game with Tulane having been moved to Norman because of the recovery and cleanup effort underway in New Orleans resulting from Hurricane Ida, Riley was asked how that might change the Sooners’ preparation for the game. Other than not having to get on a plane and travel to New Orleans, he said, it won’t change any of our planning and preparations leading up to game day.

Regarding the announcement on Monday that LSU transfer Tre Bradford was no longer on the Oklahoma roster, Riley said he was caught off guard, much like everyone else.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

Bradford was one of two running backs OU added to the roster this past offseason from the transfer portal.

Eric Gray, a transfer from Tennessee, is expected to share RB duties this season along with Kennedy Brooks.

Riley and running backs coach DeMarco Murray were looking to Bradford, who transferred from LSU after one season, to provide a third RB option in the Sooners’ backfield this season. Murray liked his speed and explosiveness and felt Bradford could have a positive impact in the OU run game.

But now that is only wishful thinking. “I would love to explain what happened,” Riley said. “I really don’t have an explanation.

“It was a strange situation. It’s part of the deal with the transfer portal,” he said. “You’re bringing in some people you flat out know less about. On that one, we swung and we obviously missed, and we made a mistake.”

Although Oklahoma is down to Brooks, Gray and a pair of preferred walk-ons on the depth chart at running back, the No. 2-ranked Sooners are fortunate that Brooks and Gray are among the best running-back tandems in college football this coming season. The cause for concern is what happens if one or both of them goes down with an injury.

Within the last two weeks, the OU running back room has lost redshirt sophomore Marcus Major, who some believed was going to have a breakout season, to academic ineligibility and Bradford, who reportedly is going to re-enter the transfer portal.

Riley said during Tuesday’s press conference that he was already planning on playing the two walk-on running backs, Jaden Knowles and Todd Hudson, before learning about the situations involving Major and Bradford. He acknowledged there is always the option of converting someone else on the roster to fill in at running back, but he is not contemplating such a move at this time and has complete confidence in Brooks, Gay, Knowles and Hudson as a group and in their ability to get the job done.

Both Knowles and Hudson are undersized at 5-foot, 7 inches, but there have been some quality Oklahoma running backs of the same build. One that comes immediately to mind is Quentin Griffin, who played four season at OU, including on the 2000 national championship team, and ranks fourth on the school’s career rushing list with 3,938 yards and 44 touchdowns. Another was Roy Finch, who gained 1,412 yards and scored nine touchdowns at Oklahoma.

As far as what the future holds for the Sooners at the running back position, it’s probably safe to say this will be Brooks’ last college season. Gray has another year of eligibility left after this season, although he, too, could declare for the NFL.

Knowles and Hudson should return in 2022, and the Sooners’ commitments for their 2022 recruiting class includes two of the top-four running-back prospects in the country in Raleek Brown of Santa Ana, California, and Gavin Sawchuck on Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and also four-star prospect Treyaun Webb of Jacksonville, Florida.