The initial thought is that there’s no way the Oklahoma Sooners can replace running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine next year.
Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley says “probably not” in finding two players like Mixon and Perine. “But you’ve just got to replace the production” and he said you do that with a mix of newcomers, including Mansfield High School running back Kennedy Brooks.
“I see Kennedy Brooks a little more in the Samaje mode,” Riley said on National Signing Day, when Brooks was part of a 27-player, national top-10 recruiting class. “I don’t know if there’s as many spectacular plays, and he has his fair share, but he’s just a guy that wears on you.
“I mean the guy ran for 6,000 yards in the last two years in one of the best areas for high school football in the country and was incredibly consistent. And every coach you talked to in the Metroplex said this is one of the best running backs we’ve ever seen. He’s just a really steady kind of guy, kind of like Samaje.”
Mixon had top-end speed and moves; and Perine was more of the tackle-shredding workhorse with straight-ahead acceleration.
The new running back recruits, including Brooks, have speed, but whether they will be up to speed for Oklahoma’s Sept. 9 showdown at Ohio State or the early part of the Big 12 football schedule that includes Baylor and Texas is the question. OU, however, returns Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield and the entire offensive line to ease the burden.
Against TCU last season, however, the Sooners needed big performances from Mayfield, Mixon, Perine and particularly senior wide receiver Dede Westbrook to outlast the Horned Frogs 52-46.
“Whether it takes five guys to do it, whether it takes two guys to do it, the focus can’t be so much on finding the next Samaje or the next Joe,” Riley said. “It’s let’s go find guys that are good enough players that we can get the production out of them to match or exceed what those guys did. I think we found that, we’ve got a nice mix.”
Junior college transfer Marcelias Sutton (from Lackawanna, Pa., College) is a smaller running back but “incredibly explosive,” Riley said. “He’s one of the most explosive players that I’ve ever recruited or seen in person.”
Georgia high school recruit Trey Sermon, an early enrollee, “probably has the most intriguing skill in that he’s a big guy, he’s the biggest of the [running back] group but also catches the ball very well.”
But can Oklahoma find another Westbrook, the Fred Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver?
Riley said he thinks the newcomers as “is the best receiving class we’ve brought in, at least on paper.”
JUCO transfer Marquise Brown “hopefully will be able to replace some of the speed and explosion we lost with Dede, and a guy that can run with anybody in the country right now.”
California high school recruit Grant Calcaterra (6-4, 225 pounds) has the physique “to build on that tight end-flex position, where we’ve used Mark Andrews some and we’ll continue to use more.”
In Cedarian Lamb from Houston-area Richmond Foster and Charleston Rambo, a Cedar Hill product who stuck with OU after a late visit to Florida, “you’re talking about two of the most dynamic high school receivers in the country.”
Riley likes this class. Sooners head coach Bob Stoops called it “one of the best” in his 19 years with Oklahoma.
“They put their class in front of their individual needs, you don’t see that everywhere,” Riley said. “In a lot of ways it’s just a me, me, me world, and this group was a nice breath of fresh air in that regard, and I think it’s a big key why we pulled in the class we did.”