It has been well-documented at this point that the Oklahoma running back room looks a whole lot different than what many expected it to at last season’s end.
Between players leaving for the NFL, transferring elsewhere, getting dismissed from the team and ruled ineligible for academic reasons, the Sooners somehow find themselves with just two scholarship running backs heading into the 2021 season that opens in just two days.
With all the turnover at the position, Oklahoma is expected to lean on a pair of walk-ons more than anyone had previously anticipated. Jaden Knowles and Todd Hudson are names Sooner fans will have to get accustomed to quickly, as they are likely getting thrust into the limelight sooner rather than later.
“Been really impressed with Jaden Knowles and Todd Hudson,” Lincoln Riley said this week. “Even before the latest departure, both of those two were certainly going to play for us. No question about it. Excited for those guys.”
Knowles is one of the most fun stories brewing in college football as his second passion is extremely unique for a major program college football player: meteorology.
Knowles, or “Weatherman J” as he is sometimes known, is a meteorologist on the student newscast “OU Nightly.” A clip he posted of himself recounting the recent weather events went viral on Twitter in March.
As one might expect, this has become a hit on the Oklahoma roster. Knowles’ teammates love to reference it in practice and turn to Knowles for all their forecast needs.
“You know it’s actually so funny because we’ll go outside and be like, 'Jaden, what’s the weather today?' ” fellow running Eric Gray said. “He’ll be like, 'It’s sunny,' then we’ll go outside and it’s overcast. Then I’ll be like, 'Jaden, you don’t know what you’re talking about.' He loves doing all the weatherman stuff. It was raining one day and like, we got moved inside. He was like, 'I told you it was gonna rain. I told you it was gonna rain.' He loves it. It’s a great time, just joking with him about it.”
The 5-foot-7, 195-pound Knowles has gone from a player who likely wasn’t going to see the field much to suddenly being a key piece of the offense and a fan favorite seemingly overnight. But all signs point to both he and Oklahoma completely embracing the unique situation and chasing of multiple of dreams at once.
“Honestly, I learned more about the meteorology after he was on the team,” Riley said. “I remember a couple guys saying something about it and then obviously the clip that went viral on social media happened. Now everybody ... That’s just kind of what you know him as. He’s ‘The Weatherman.’ ”
Knowles’ persona as “Weatherman J,” or simply “The Weatherman,” has made him an instantly recognizable member of the team. It's something the other players and coaches are clearly enjoying.
“We bust on him a little bit,” Riley said. “We got a report from our weather guys in training camp. We knew there was going to be some weather, some lightning, we’re all gonna be good. We were out at the rugby fields where we typically do training camp, and we’re not out on the field for two minutes — Boom! — huge lightning strike. Everybody starts looking at him like it was his fault.
“So we bust on him if we get a bad forecast. You can hear the guys like if he makes a good run, someone will say, ‘It’s sunny and nice.’ Or if something’s bad they’ll say, ‘It’s cloudy and stormy.’ So we’ve had fun with it. It’s cool that that kid’s been able to come here and attack his passion. So yeah, pretty cool story.”
After not playing in 2020, Knowles will begin his first season of action in Norman listed alongside Hudson as the two running backs at the No. 3 spot on the Week 1 depth chart going into the Sooners’ season opener against Tulane on Saturday.
In the Red/White Game, Knowles helped carry the load late, finishing with three rushes for 31 yards and a touchdown, and adding four receptions for 48 yards.
"This past spring game, obviously Jaden had a great game at running back," said H-back Jeremiah Hall. "It was kind of like his breakout game for all the Sooner fans to see what he can do. And then his track over the course of the past, I’d say, winter workouts, spring workouts, summer workouts, he has had that type of mentality all the way through.
"For him, it’s just all coming together. I’m proud of what he’s accomplished so far. And even more proud of him off the field. He’s 'The Weatherman.' "
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