After opting out of the 2020 season, it seemed like everyone just forgot how good Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks was in 2019.
Entering the 2021 campaign, the debate over whether Brooks or Tennessee running back Eric Gray should be the No. 1 option was one that raged on and that practically everyone was guilty of entertaining.
There is no longer a conversation. There is no longer a debate.
Brooks has clearly separated himself as the top running back on the Sooners with an explosive three-game stretch that has coincided with the Oklahoma offense finally finding its footing.
Over the last three weeks, Brooks has ran for 461 total yards and four touchdowns including a monster 217-yard outing against Texas to help the Sooners rally from 18 points down in the third quarter.
For a myriad of potential reasons, Kennedy Brooks season has arrived.
“More locked into the details,” Brooks said after the TCU game on what could be the source for the resurgence. “We just get a rhythm going on. Everybody is more locked in. We are just trying to get better every single day. I’m just getting more chances and taking the opportunities that I get. I’m just doing what I can for the team.”
“Kennedy's got some good momentum right now and you know is really seeing things well and I do think he's a little more explosive than he's been in the past,” Lincoln Riley said TCU postgame.
“He's always had some long runs but he’s really popped some for us that have been big. He was great.”
It seems far from a coincidence that Brooks’ hot stretch has coincided with the Oklahoma offense finally getting going after a very sluggish beginning to the season.
After putting up just 23 and 16 points against Nebraska and West Virginia, the Sooners have popped off for 37, 55 and 52 in the last three contests.
Of course, the other big change in that timeframe has been the introduction of freshman quarterback Caleb Williams into the fold.
While Brooks turnaround was beginning before the quarterback change, it seems the move to Williams has opened things up even more for the redshirt junior.
“Just like anything man, when you pass well you can run the ball well,” Brooks said about Williams helping get him going. “You’ve got to keep the defense honest and just have them worrying about both things, not just running the ball or not just passing. When both things are clicking, it’s just a lot easier for running the ball or just passing.”
“Obviously Caleb being able to run the ball some has helped,” Lincoln Riley said. “But I mean, I still think it started with the O-line. I do. I think the O-line has given those guys some opportunities, and they’ve both been able to take advantage of them. Anytime you’re able to run the ball effectively with different people and make some plays in the throwing game as well, it makes you tough to defend. It really does.”
“Kennedy’s really had three pretty strong games here in a row for us. He kinda got going there against Kansas State and he’s obviously played well these last two. That’s been huge for our team. We know we’re a different team when we’re able to run the ball how we want. That’s obviously showed up here these last few weeks.”
Whatever the source of the uptick, Brooks’ play has undeniably taken the Sooners offense to another level in the past few weeks - and his teammates recognize that.
“I mean everybody seen what he added offense when we played Texas,” wide receiver Jadon Haselwood said. “I mean, but you're right though I really can't see. I just tell DeMarco (Murray), 'tell the running backs to run behind me man.' So if he pass me while I'm blocking I know we doing something good and he's doing something good. So he got that vision and he looking good. Everybody's looking good.”
Despite the immense success, Brooks says he does not care about his role moving forward as long as he feels like he is helping the team win.
But he shouldn’t need worry, for that role will be as the workhorse and backbone of an Oklahoma offense that is really beginning to flourish.
“I’m comfortable regardless. I’m not really worried about who starts, I'm not really worried about all that, getting the ball,” Brooks said. “I’m just here to do whatever I can for the team.
“That’s my job, that’s my only job is to better myself and help the team win. As long as I can do that, I’m happy and satisfied.”
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