Samaje Perine in heady company at Oklahoma
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Quietly - because that's the way he prefers it - Samaje Perine has placed himself into the conversation about top running backs at Oklahoma.
That list includes Heisman Trophy winners - Billy Vessels, Steve Owens and Billy Sims - along with an NFL MVP in Adrian Peterson, iconic college football names such as Greg Pruitt and Joe Washington and solid pros DeMarco Murray, Kenny King and Stanley Wilson. Still, Perine will enter his junior season with a good chance to become the Sooners' career rushing leader.
In only two seasons, Perine has rushed for 3,062 yards, putting him 10th on the Sooners' career list. Barring injury, it would seem Sims' program record of 4,118 yards will be in extreme jeopardy this season.
Good luck getting Perine to acknowledge that, though. At Oklahoma's media day on Saturday, Perine was peppered with questions about himself and he answered them as he always does - briefly and politely, but without a ton of insight.
Asked if he thought about setting the record, Perine said, ''No. I can't think about stuff like that. I'm just doing whatever I have to do to help the team win.''
So what do you do that makes you so successful?
''I couldn't tell you,'' Perine said. ''I go out and practice like everybody else.''
Have you gotten better from last year?
''I don't know,'' Perine said. ''We've only been at practice for a few days and obviously I didn't get to do anything all spring, so I'm not sure yet.''
How is your ankle after offseason surgery to fix torn ligaments?
''Great,'' Perine said.
Perine's first brush with national fame came after he set a still-standing major-college single-game rushing record with 427 yards (on 34 carries) in win over Kansas as a freshman. He finished that season with 1,713 yards and followed that up with 1,349 yards last season - even though he split time with freshman Joe Mixon - as the Sooners went 11-2, won the Big 12 title and advanced to the FBS semifinals.
That puts Perine just 1,057 yards from Sims' mark. His teammates are vocal about wanting him to break that record.
''It would definitely be great, definitely be something I'd be proud of,'' offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. ''Just for Samaje. He's a great guy. Great teammate. Great person. Be very proud of him.''
Quarterback Baker Mayfield - who soaks up a lot of the attention in the Sooners' offensive backfield - echoed that sentiment and acknowledged that what Perine is doing is special.
''I'm going to do everything in my power to give him the ball enough times to break that record,'' Mayfield said. ''That's pretty special and I know he's not worried about it, but if we're able to establish the run game with him and Joe, that's going to set up the rest of our offense and kind of set the tone. So we're going to try and run the ball first and we should be able to do it, too.''
Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley admits to being ''a little surprised'' that Perine is so close to the career rushing mark at a place like Oklahoma, a program that was No. 2 in The Associated Press' all-time Top 100, which was revealed earlier this week
''The history here is obviously is as good as it is anywhere for running backs in the history of this game,'' Riley said. ''But this guy has been so consistent. It's awesome to see a guy who is having this happen this so humble, having a career he's had up to this point. The fact that he's still got a lot left is so special. ... It's good when you see good things happen to good people.''
Perine has averaged more than six yards per carry so far in his career, but his name doesn't often come up often in preseason Heisman Trophy talk. Head coach Bob Stoops wonders why.
''I think we have a Heisman candidate in Baker, but I don't know why Samaje wouldn't be a Heisman candidate as well, if he has a great year,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
Perine's potential accomplishment has ''sort of quietly snuck up on everybody,'' Stoops said. ''That's probably how Samaje would prefer it. He's low-key and keeps it quiet, but it would be a great accomplishment if it can happen and hopefully, knock on wood, he can stay healthy and in our normal scheme of things, hopefully he'll run well and we'll give him some opportunities and he can achieve that