The Oklahoman

Why Riley almost didn’t offer Brooks a scholarshi­p

- Justin Martinez

NORMAN — Kennedy Brooks knows all about patience.

When Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley first began scouting the running back from Mansfield, Texas, he immediatel­y noticed the numbers he was putting up.

Brooks ran for 2,865 yards and 40 touchdowns in 11 games as a senior at Mansfield High School. The dominant showcase led him to be named the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s 2016 Super Team Offensive Player of the Year, and yet something was still holding Riley back from offering the four-star prospect a scholarshi­p.

That something was Brooks’ style of running.

The 5-foot-11 back showed more patience than explosiven­ess. He didn’t run the hardest. He didn’t make many cuts.

And despite being plenty effective, he didn’t jump off the film.

“It almost led us to, honestly, not offer him in high school,” Riley said. “It was like, ‘Man, he’s good but is he big enough? Is he fast enough? I don’t know if he’s big enough or fast enough, but he rushed for about (260) yards per game. So, something’s pretty good.’”

Riley and the Sooners ended up giving Brooks a late offer, which he chose to accept over other top programs such as Michigan and Tennessee.

Brooks showed even more patience once he got to OU. He redshirted in 2017 and surrendere­d a chunk of carries to dual-threat quarterbac­ks Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts in 2018 and 2019, respective­ly. Brooks then opted out of last season for COVID-19 reasons and then entered 2021 as a part of a twoman run game with Tennessee transfer Eric Gray.

But Brooks has finally establishe­d himself as the undisputed top running option for the Sooners.

The redshirt junior boasts 79 carries for 535 yards and six touchdowns through OU’s first six games, and his best outing came last week against Texas. Brooks ran for a career-high 217 yards on 25 carries to help the Sooners earn a 55-48 victory.

Despite having the biggest performanc­e of his college career, Brooks didn’t claim any credit after the game.

“I give all my credit to God, the O-Line and the receivers,” Brooks said. “They did everything for me. They made my job easier. I couldn’t’ do anything without them, and my coaches trusting me. I give all credit to them.”

Brooks has emerged as one of OU’s most dangerous weapons this season, and he did it all at his own pace.

“You learned that’s just kind of him,” Riley said. “It is unique because it’s so, so patient. That guy has carried the ball so much in his life. He knows who he is as a runner and he’s very confident and settled in with himself. (He) knows what his strengths are, and you see the results of that.”

A Major boost

After being ruled academical­ly ineligible before the start of the season, Marcus Major received clearance to return to the team on Friday.

The redshirt sophomore running back rushed 35 times for 187 yards and three touchdowns last season and provides some much-needed depth for the Sooners’ backfield.

OU played its first five contests with just two scholarshi­p running backs, Brooks and Gray.

“It was a nice surprise, honestly,” Riley said about Major’s return. “It was a little unexpected. It’s good to have him back in the fold... It’s a very physical position, so having (Major) back certainly helps.”

Major didn’t get any carries against the Longhorns on Saturday, but the Oklahoma City native has been getting re-acclimated to the offense by practicing with the scout team.

Once he does make his return, Major should be a valuable weapon for OU’s offense.

“(Major) has got some good experience,” Riley said. “He’s got good explosion, and he’ll bring some size and a little physicalit­y to the room. It’ll be a nice addition.”

Punting the portal talk

After being dethroned by freshman backup Caleb Williams during Saturday’s win over Texas, speculatio­n about Spencer Rattler entering the transfer portal has been a hot topic.

When asked on Tuesday about the possibilit­y of seeing his star quarterbac­k walk, Riley expressed confidence that Rattler will remain with the team.

“There are never any guarantees,” Riley said. “You can’t predict the future, but I would expect to have both (Rattler and Williams) for the entire season... I think that both of those guys are pretty committed to this football team.”

The redshirt sophomore quarterbac­k hasn’t spoken to the media since being benched, and his only tweet following the Texas game is one of support for his teammates.

“Huge team win yesterday,” Rattler’s tweet read. “Proud of all my brothers. 6-0!”

Riley said he won’t name a starting quarterbac­k in the days leading up to Saturday’s home game against TCU.

“What (Rattler) is going through is not easy,” Riley said. “He’s been a tremendous teammate. He’s done well here academical­ly. He’s done well here off the field... He’s a heckuva kid and a really good player. He’s got a lot of bright days ahead.”

Injury updates

Co-offensive coordinato­r Bill Bedenbaugh said that Erik Swenson dealt with back issues against Texas, but the redshirt senior offensive lineman’s health is not a concern heading into Saturday’s game against TCU game.

After missing OU’s Week 5 contest against Kansas State due to an undisclose­d injury, Delarrin Turner-Yell appeared in one play against Texas before being taken out of the game.

Isaiah Coe is also dealing with a lingering undisclose­d injury. The junior defensive lineman got banged up during the fourth quarter of the win over Kansas State and has not played since then.

 ?? BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN ?? OU’s Kennedy Brooks (26) celebrates after running for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter Saturday against Texas.
BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN OU’s Kennedy Brooks (26) celebrates after running for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter Saturday against Texas.
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