NORMAN, Okla. — It seemed Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson might never get the chance to live up to his enormous potential.
He suffered a season-ending knee injury two games into the 2015 season and a season-ending neck injury in fall camp in 2016.
This season, he’s has been eased into action. An injury to Abdul Adams provided an opportunity, and Anderson capitalized this past Saturday against Kansas State. The redshirt sophomore ran for 147 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown in a 42-35 win over Kansas State . He also caught four passes for 30 yards and a score.
“I think that’s the first step for Rodney,” Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “He hasn’t played the past few years so he’s only going to get better, which is a pretty scary thought for other teams because he’s just getting going.”
The Sooners hope Anderson keeps it going Saturday when the 10th-ranked Sooners host Texas Tech.
Anderson is 6-foot-2 and a solid 218 pounds, yet he has breakaway speed, as demonstrated on his 22-yard game winner . Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said Anderson may be the team’s most complete back.
“I saw him run through a bunch of tackles the other day,” Riley said. “He runs hard and he catches the ball well. But he’s also got some homerun speed. He popped some big ones the other day where he’s got a pretty good gear to him. So I would say physically, he’s the best one we have.”
Anderson has split time with three other talented backs — Adams, leading rusher Trey Sermon and junior college transfer Marcelias Sutton. Anderson finally got a chance to shine when he had 10 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago against Texas. That positioned him for the breakout game against Kansas State.
“His attitude’s been great,” Riley said. “That’s why he was ready to go the last couple weeks when his opportunity came. He didn’t pout about it, he didn’t get down when he get the opportunities. He had a great team-first mentality, and kept working hard and believing in himself.”
Adams could have played Saturday, but Riley didn’t need to use him because Anderson was rolling.
“He just got hot the other night and we stayed with him, and he responded in a big way,” Riley said. “So yeah, that’s a guy that has battled back from all that he has, and then even more things this year, not playing a bunch early, all that. To be able to respond like he did was huge for him individually, and obviously, huge for our team.”
It was easy for Anderson’s teammates to be happy for him because of the way he has handled his situation.
“His work ethic, he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve been around and he deserves everything, recognition-wise, that he got from Saturday,” Mayfield said. “For him moving forward, it’s only going to be better and better. He works hard and we’ve been an offense so far this season that we’re giving running backs touches when they’re hot and keeping them going. Right now, Rodney has a hot hand. I’m looking forward to see what he builds on.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .