The offensive backfield will perhaps be Oklahoma’s strongest group in 2016. The Sooners not only have a Heisman candidate under center in redshirt junior Baker Mayfield, but also return what very well may be the nation’s most explosive duo of running backs.
For evidence, go back to the final six regular season games last year when OU averaged an incredible 311.2 rushing yards on 6.4 yards per attempt. The 6.4 average led the nation during the time span.
Samaje Perine was once again one of the best ball carriers in the nation last season as a sophomore, rushing for 1,349 yards (6.0 per carry) and a Big 12-leading 16 touchdowns. Over the season’s final seven games, he averaged 132.7 rushing yards a contest (7.0 per carry) and racked up 13 touchdowns (scored at least one in each contest).
Perine plays with punishing power and is rarely brought down by the first defender. He has excellent vision and showcases nimble footwork in the hole, allowing him to get to the second level of a defense where his power is often too much for safeties and corners. For his stellar 2015 campaign, Perine picked up third-team All-America honors and was selected to the All-Big 12 First Team.
Few if any programs boast as rich a history of rushers as the Oklahoma, yet with two seasons in the books, the Pflugerville, Texas, native already ranks 10th in Oklahoma history with 3,062 career rushing yards and is just 1,056 yards shy of Billy Sims’ school record of 4,118 yards. He has topped 1,300 yards in each of his first two seasons and given a full year of health should have little problem finishing his junior season as OU’s all-time leading rusher.
Joe Mixon served as an excellent complement to Perine as a redshirt freshman last year, totaling 753 rushing yards and 356 more through the air with 11 total touchdowns. Mixon made plays in both the passing and ground games and even averaged a better yards-per-carry number than Perine at 6.7.
Measuring 6-1 and weighing 226 pounds, Mixon is powerful in his own right, but also boasts elite lateral quickness and acceleration not common in players his size. When compared to Perine, Mixon is perhaps more likely to make a tackler miss than to plow through them, but both backs will punish defenders, and having both ensures that the Sooners’ run game will be fresh in fourth quarters as opposing defenses wear down.
Running backs coach Jay Boulware has to be pleased with the depth at the position. Daniel Brooks was a spark for the Sooners in his limited carries last season. At 5-8 and 190 pounds, the redshirt senior offers a change of pace to Oklahoma’s duo of leading power backs. Brooks, who is generally regarded by teammates as the fastest man on the squad, totaled 150 yards on the ground in 2015, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Brooks could be a factor in OU’s punt and kick return games.
Redshirt freshman Rodney Anderson was a contributor on special teams during the early part of 2015 but was sidelined by injury the final 11 games of the season. Rated as the nation’s No. 2 running back out of high school by 247Sports, Anderson is another talented and well-pedigreed back who will be back in the mix in 2016.
Freshman Abdul Adams has made some buzz at the outset of fall camp. A four-star prospect and the No. 10 running back in the country by Rivals, the 5-10, 208-pounder rushed for 2,036 yards and 21 touchdowns in his senior season at Hillside High School in Durham, N.C. He is an explosive playmaker whose skills could result in immediate playing time.