He's not yet cleared for contact, and won't be all spring, but running back Rodney Anderson still stood out on the first day of spring practice Tuesday.
The redshirt sophomore cruised through receiving drills with ease, throwing jukes and cutbacks that seemed too quick for a guy with a 6-foot-2 223-pound frame. Considered one of the top high school running back prospects, Anderson missed last season suffering a neck injury during the intrasquad scrimmage. Coach Bob Stoops said Monday he will be “intentionally limited” during the spring to get further removed from the injury, but it's easy to see the potential.
“He's a freak,” offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “He's at the top or near the top of every test we have. He's strong, fast, smart. Every quality you would put down for a great running back or just a great football player, he checks a lot of the boxes. We're thrilled about how far he's come.”
The Sooners are trying to replace the backfield production of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Both declared for the NFL Draft despite eligibility to return. Perine surpassed Billy Simms for the program's all-time rushing record, amassing 4,122 yards in his three seasons in Norman. Mixon was one of the Sooners' most explosive players he last two seasons, finishing with 27 total touchdowns. Last year he had 1,274 rushing yards and 538 receiving yards.
“It's restarting over, and it would be the same mentality even if we brought everybody back,” Riley said. “This is starting all new. This is all from scratch again.”
• Similar TE paths: Every time coach Bob Stoops answers a question about freshman tight end Grant Calcaterra, it's doesn't take long to mention junior tight end Mark Andrews.
Andrews haw bonded with the early enrollee in team meetings, the weight room and as spring practice got underway Tuesday. Andrews views the comparison as a complement. Coming to OU, he hoped he could be a leader, mentioning Blake Bell, a converted quarterback who finished his career as a tight end in 2014, as one of his role models.
“It's a good thing for (Grant) to learn and for me to take that step, be a leader, and show him the ropes” Andrews said. “I remember when I first stepped in here, I looked for guys that were older than me that I could emulate. For me, that was Blake Bell. I kind of wanted to take on that role in how he was as a leader. So, I know how it is. I just try to take him under my wing and help him out.”
• Another year of Mayfield: Quarterback Baker Mayfield wouldn't have even been at OU's first spring practice Tuesday if it hadn't been for the Big 12 granting him another year of eligibility.
Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech following his freshman season, in which he started as a walk-on. Due to NCAA rules, he had to sit out his sophomore year. According to a Big 12 rule, he also lost a year of eligibility for transferring between conference schools. Mayfield appealed the decision, arguing he transferred as a non-scholarship player and shouldn't be considered the same as one with a scholarship. In June of 2016, the conference passed a rule, allowing players without a written scholarship offer to transfer without losing eligibility, and Mayfield was declared eligible for the 2017 season.
“I wouldn't have had a decision,” Mayfield said. “I would have had to gone to preparing for the NFL, and it would have been a much different situation than I'm in right now. I wouldn't be here, playing at the school I love.”
• An Oklahoman through and through: Tuesday marked the first spring practice of coach Bob Stoops 19th season with the Sooners.
He is the longest tenured coach in college football at one school by one day over Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, a fact he joked about in Monday's press conference. Stoops and Ferentz were both considered for the Iowa job, Stoops alma mater, before Stoops went to OU. He also talked about loyalty, and what it meant to be at a job where, “done the right way, you want to be your whole career.”
The Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel asked Stoops, who has spent more time in Norman, Oklahoma, than anywhere else now, if he felt like he was “an Oklahoman.”
“No doubt,” Stoops said. “Absolutely. No one can recognize my accent here but I go home and they don't know where I'm from either. I'm kind of crossed between Youngstown (Ohio) and Oklahoma. But definitely, I left Youngstown at 17 to go to Iowa, so I've been here longer than anywhere.”
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