Oklahoma moved to 2-0 on the season with a convincing win over UCLA in Norman on Saturday. However, the victory didn’t come without a cost. In the first half, Sooner running back Rodney Anderson went down with an apparent knee injury. Now, it has been determined that Anderson has a significant injury and could miss some extended time in the 2018 season. Arguably, the Big 12’s top returning running back this season must be replaced for the near term, if not the long term. We’ll look at how the Rodney Anderson injury raises running back depth concerns for Oklahoma.
This could be a case of what might have been. Anderson’s career at Oklahoma has been riddled with injury. A season-ending injury in 2015, ended Anderson’s first season before it even started in Fall camp. Then, the following season, Anderson was injured in the first game of the year playing on special teams against Tennessee. Of course, last season was the first fully healthy year for Anderson. And, he took full advantage of his opportunity. He ran for over 1,100 yards including over 200 yards against Georgia in the Rose Bowl. Now, his Oklahoma career could come to an end after another knee injury.
Options for Sooners Moving Forward
Conventional wisdom points to a committee approach for the Sooners in the backfield if Anderson misses significant time. But, Oklahoma will most likely point to Trey Sermon as RB1 next week as they open up conference play against Iowa State. Sermon rushed for 744 yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman last year. However, Marcelias Sutton has been very impressive in the first two games of the season. Sutton possesses the top big-play threat and is a good change of pace back for the Sooners. Also, look for contributions from true freshman T.J. Pledger. Because of depth at the position, Pledger was primed for a redshirt season. Now, he will be forced into play this season. But, all indications are that he is ready to play now.
Offensive Line Must Get Better
The expectations are high for the Oklahoma offense. Now, the Sooners have scored 102 points in their first two games. But, Riley is a perfectionist and will see room for improvement. No matter who is running, the Sooners must get better play along the offensive line. The Sooners rushed for only 179 yards against the Bruins. That’s 15 yards less than Cincinnati gained a week ago. No disrespect to the Bearcats, but the Sooners are a different offense. Most notably, the Bruins stoned Oklahoma on a fourth and short early in the game to showcase a struggling running game. For the Sooners to fulfill their lofty goals, the offensive line must be a strength.
The Bottom Line
Anderson was the closest thing that Oklahoma has to a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2018. The potential loss will be felt and was evident in the drop off through today’s 49-21 victory. But, this is a loss that can be overcome. The Sooners have a tough road test next Saturday in Ames against the Cyclones of Iowa State. Oklahoma will need to figure things out quickly in order to overcome a well coached, amped up team at home. And, oh, by the way, the only regular-season loss for Oklahoma a year ago. But, survive that and you have games against Army and Baylor at home before the Red River Rivalry. Look for Riley to ride the hot hand moving forward to replace Anderson.
In summary, the Sooners are quite fortunate the depth is strong at the running back position. All in all, this is a blow this team can absorb, but the leadership will be tested through the first half of 2018.