Much ado about something? A look at the Oklahoma running back position over the last few years

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Like life, college football personnel has its highs and lows. There are times where you’re able to recruit, develop and send players to the league at an astonishing rate. Conversely, there are times when you experience turbulence within a position group seemingly every year.

It may be on field production (or lack thereof) or off the field issues that just deplete your position group.

The Oklahoma Sooners over the last decade have seen both sides of the coin.

From recruiting guys like Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, Rodney Anderson and watching them go to the NFL to having running backs transfer in and practice for less than 14 practices and then transfer back out in less than 2 months, OU has seen it all of late.

Let’s take a look at the Sooners running back issues and where they are headed going into the future.

Jay Boulware, former Sooners running back coach helped recruit the men mentioned previously in Perine, Mixon and Anderson. Much to the chagrin of the Sooners faithful, he will be remembered for his misses in recruiting in the state of Texas more than anything.

He was let go largely due to the lack of production and development of guys he brought in. In stepped DeMarco Murray.

Murray, a former Sooners running back who went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans took over after his first coaching stint at the University of Arizona.

Murray has suffered from some of the same issues Boulware dealt with. Failures to close on guys that were seemingly within reach (Camar Wheaton) or having to deal with suspensions/ineligible guys (Seth McGowan, Marcus Major, Mikey Henderson). The latest wave of running back problems has left OU with two scholarship running backs in a year where the Sooners are more equipped to win the national title than they’ve been since 2008.

How do they bounce back going forward to push this horrible string of mishaps and lack of depth behind them?

It starts with the 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes first and foremost. OU is at a big disadvantage with a week until the start of the 2021 season. There’s no real solution for this year outside of hoping walk on Jaden Knowles can be serviceable and eat some carries to spell Eric Gray and Kennedy Brooks.

That’s also contingent on Brooks and Gray remaining healthy. Things could get real desperate if one/both is injured at any point.

H-Back Jeremiah Hall will likely see carries this year too. Just maybe a receiver lower on the depth chart converts over or Micah Bowens (transfer QB from Penn State with some real mobility) steps up and becomes a RB.

Regardless, this year’s problems will have to be fixed in house.

2022 will see Raleek Brown, Gavin Sawchuk and possibly one more RB (high school recruit or grad transfer) come in to Oklahoma for next season. One of the duo of Gray and Brooks is almost a lock to leave for the NFL after this season with Brooks being the likely one. Gray could leave if he has the season that many anticipate and the Sooners win the national title.

In that scenario four running backs at minimum would need to find their way to OU next year assuming Marcus Major is eligible next year of course.

Four-star running back Jovantae Barnes out of Las Vegas, Nevada has a close relationship with RB coach Murray. Can Murray seal the deal and fight off Alabama and USC for the young man’s pledge?

In 2023, Treyaun Webb has gotten the ball rolling for running backs. Listed as the nation’s no. 3 RB on 247Sports, Webb is an excellent notch on the belt of Murray as long as he can keep him in the fold for the next two years. Guys like Richard Young and Reuben Owens are other names the Sooners are looking at for the class of 2023.

There’s no doubt some of the issues that OU has faced are completely out of the control of the guys in the program. But as we all know to be true, being proactive instead of reactive is the way to go.

Grinding on the recruiting trail and locking down these recruits will go a long way to providing stability in OU’s running back room and preventing such turnover and uncertainty heading into future seasons.