Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 23, 2018 at 9:25 pm.

Sooner running game rolls on despite injuries

After losing starter Rodney Anderson to a season-ending injury by mid-September, Oklahoma’s running game figured to have taken a hit.

But the No. 8 Sooners have continued to be effective on the ground, even as Marcelias Sutton and Trey Sermon, who took over as the starter after Anderson’s injury, have missed time with injuries of their own.

“Good linemen, first,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said of the reason for the continued success. “We’ve been pretty good up front and that makes a big difference.”

Last week, it was redshirt freshman Kennedy Brooks taking the lead. Brooks ran for a career-high 168 yards and a touchdown.

Brooks averaged 9.3 yards per carry, which was actually his lowest average of the season.

“We were joking about one he had against Baylor or somebody where it looks like he’s out running in the park with his labrador,” Riley said. “It does. It’s hard to explain honestly. It’s the same thing we saw in high school.

“We went back and forth earlier in his career about should we offer the kid? He was ultra-productive and the tape was really good. He just wasn’t built unbelievably. He didn’t have 4.3 speed. You didn’t see him just violently running over people. He was in the right place at the right time almost every single time. He’s been like that here as a runner.”

Brooks started the season fifth on Oklahoma’s depth chart at the position but has elevated to No. 2 behind Sermon with his steady production recently.

“I think it’s the vision,” quarterback Kyler Murray said of the reason for Brooks’ success. “Everybody asks me how does he do it and I tell them I don’t know. He’s so relaxed when he’s running. It looks like he doesn’t care when he’s running. He finds holes. He knows what he is looking for.”

Saturday against Kansas State, Brooks might be at the top after Sermon left last week’s win over TCU with a leg injury.

Riley didn’t have an update on Sermon’s condition Monday.

Through seven games, the Sooners are averaging 6.4 yards per carry, with every runner averaging at least 5.2 yards per carry.

In recent years, Oklahoma has shown plenty of depth at running back, with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon teaming up at the position for two years before last year’s running back by committee approach until Anderson took over in the second half of the season.

This year, it looks like Brooks could be the back to emerge late.

“Whew, that boy came in and stepped up and played ball like a man,” offensive tackle Bobby Evans said of Brooks. “That’s something. I’m proud of the kid for that because somebody who has been sitting on the sideline and not getting a lot of reps, for him to come in and run like that, I’d take a lot of pride in that.”