Riley at Big 12 Media Day: Oklahoma has two starting running backs

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The Oklahoma Sooners enter the 2021 season in much better shape at the running back position than in 2020. Heading into 2020, the running back depth chart was topped by T.J. Pledger and featured freshmen Seth McGowan and Marcus Major. Pledger was the only one who had carried the football at the college level, and he only had 40 carries to his collegiate career.

Pledger was solid while awaiting the return of Rhamondre Stevenson from suspension. However, the duo of Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray put the Oklahoma Sooners ahead of the curve at running back heading into 2021.

Speaking at Big 12 Media Day yesterday, Lincoln Riley was asked about the usage of the running backs, and to no one’s surprise, he plans on playing both Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray a lot.

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Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray come into the 2021 season with nearly 600 combined touches in their respective collegiate careers. That’s a ton of experience heading to the field for the Sooners in 2021.

We’ve seen Lincoln Riley and the offensive staff show an ability to feature two running backs in the offense. Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both thrived in Riley’s offense in 2015 and 2016.

With Gray and Brooks’ versatile skillsets, the Sooners will rotate them in based on game situation. Gray will likely play more in two-minute drill situations or if the Sooners are forced to play from behind because of his receiving prowess. Brooks will play more in neutral situations or late in games when the Sooners are leading, where Riley and company will look to run the football.

Because both can catch the football out of the backfield, there’s a strong possibility that the Sooners will install packages into the playbook that have both Gray and Brooks on the field at the same time. Putting stress on the opposing defense is the name of the game, and with their ability to create big plays in the run and pass game, Lincoln Riley and DeMarco Murray will get creative to get them on the field together.

In Lincoln Riley’s offense, the starter designation isn’t as important as one might think. He likes to get a lot of players involved in the offense. Even a guy like Marcus Major will get some touches in 2021 though he sits third or fourth on the Sooners depth chart.

Behind what should be another really good offensive line for the Oklahoma Sooners, OU’s starting running backs Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray are set for a productive 2021.