We’re still not clear if Ronnie Perkins, Rhamondre Stevenson and Trejan Bridges are back this week or if their NCAA suspension continues.
That's just good, sneaky, underhanded (and totally acceptable) coaching by Lincoln Riley.
The guess here is that they’re back for Saturday’s game. They've missed four games this season and one last season — that's five total, and this season is only scheduled for 10 games. The NCAA mandate is for half a season, but which standard, if any, will the association use?
Maybe a more germane question for this case: If they do play, are they in game shape? Are they sharp enough to stand out in a Big 12 road game, or are they just bodies taking up snaps? Has their half-season on the scout team made them hungry, or are they complacent?
If Perkins and Stevenson, in particular, are anywhere near the form they played in last year, they lend immediate punch to two areas of need.
Four games in, OU’s running game is still averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. That is by far a Riley-era low. Sooner running backs have been barely serviceable.
But along comes Stevenson, and if he’s match fit, he can really take over the OU offense and take any pressure off Spencer Rattler. After running for 2,000 yards in junior college in 2018, he averaged 8.0 yards per carry as a backup for the Sooners last year.
Perkins provides a similar boost to the OU defense. OU has 12 quarterback sacks on the season so far, but half that total came last time out against Sam Ehlinger and Texas. Perkins — again, if he’s capable of playing a good percentage of snaps at his defensive end spot, even if it’s only in relief of Isaiah Thomas — is an instant impact player in the pass rush, but he's is also very good against the run.
More pressure up front from Perkins means TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie has an entirely new problem to solve. And more punch in the running game from Stevenson means defensive coordinator and head coach Gary Patterson will have eight defenders in the box much more often — which opens up things for Riley’s passing game to find space.
The return of two elite-level players to the OU lineup could change the Sooners' fortunes for the foreseeable future.
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