It’s that special time of year where the off-season takes short break and football returns in a limited capacity. For Oklahoma, it’s business as usual as the Sooners will again be in the hunt for another Big 12 Championship and a CFB playoff berth. Unlike in past years, Lincoln Riley will be working with mostly new personnel, but one position that has stability: running back. Oklahoma returns Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks, TJ Pledger while adding JUCO prospect, Rhamondre Stevenson and freshman, Marcus Major. Let’s break it down…
Trey Sermon: Sermon has certainly had his fair share of ups-and-downs over the past two season. As junior, he’ll look to find some consistency as far as his style of play. He’s back with an NFL frame and the strength to go with it, however gets caught “dancing around” from time-to-time when his strengths are to run downhill. Still, he’s Oklahoma’s most experienced back and probably doesn’t get enough credit for his ability as a pass catcher. If Sermon can refine his game a bit and become a more decisive runner, there’s no question he’ll be one of the better backs in the Big 12. Given last year’s injury scare during the Spring Game, it may be unlikely we get a real good look at Sermon’s progression.
Kennedy Brooks: Brooks emerged as Oklahoma’s go-to back late in the season with his cut-and-go running style. Some of that can be credited to his patience in allowing blocks to develop, some of that is his ability to find the open field. Whatever you want to attribute it to, his 8.2 yards per carry gave Oklahoma’s offense a whole new gear post-Red River Rivalry. Now a redshirt-sophomore, the Sooners are likely to lean on Brooks more given they’re breaking-in both a new quarterback and offensive line. It remains to be seen what Brooks’ ceiling is. There is improvement to be made as far as being pass catching threat and personally, I’m interested if he can find a bit more “burst” in his game.
TJ Pledger: Pledger sat out last year’s Spring Game with an injury and was used sparingly as true-freshman. A different mold than the above mentioned backs, Pledger is a smaller, more agile back while still being a strong runner between the tackles. As far as what he could bring to Oklahoma, if Lincoln Riley chooses to go into a tempo offense, Pledger looks to be a guy they could bring a lot versatility and thus stay on the field both as a runner and pass-catcher. The biggest thing, as with any Oklahoma back, is the ability to be blocker. That’s likely what he’ll need to prove most before seeing a larger role. Unfortunately, Pledger was recently pictured with a cast on his right hand, so it remains to be seen what his availability will be this spring. Lincoln Riley didn’t mention him as out for the spring during today’s press conference.
Rhamondre Stevenson & Marcus Major: Neither Stevenson or Major are early enrollees and won’t report until June. Stevenson likely has the easiest path to early playing time having JUCO experience under his belt. Major however didn’t take a lot of reps at running back his senior year and will likely need some time to develop.