NORMAN — After leading the Big 12 with its 5.4 yards per carry in 2016, the Oklahoma offense has a job opening at running back with the departures of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to the NFL. One of the candidates to carry a chunk of the load for OU in 2017 is redshirt sophomore Rodney Anderson.
A strong and fast 6-2, 223-pounder from Katy, Texas, Anderson has missed virtually all of his first two seasons in Norman. As a freshman in 2015, Anderson sustained a leg injury on kickoff coverage at Tennessee in the season's second game, sidelining him for the rest of the year. Last August, Anderson broke a bone in his neck during a preseason camp intrasquad scrimmage that again cost him the season.
Anderson, who says he is fully healthy (he still wears a green jersey in spring practice so defenders avoid contact, purely for precautionary reasons), is ready to prove why he was rated as a consensus four-star prospect and the No. 2 running back in the nation by 247Sports coming out of high school.
1. How's spring ball going for you so far?
"It's going really well. We're all working hard. Getting back out here feels good."
2. How did you handle the news each of the last two years when you found out you were done for the season, and was it easier or tougher to deal with that realization the second time?
"The first time I was pretty devastated because I had been working for this all my life, then I get (in the game) and it's over for that season. The second time wasn't any easier. It actually felt harder. It was tough, but I got through it."
3. For those who are unaware, what exactly where your two injuries?
"My first injury I had a broken fibula and I tore a ligament in my left ankle. We got the X-rays in the back (of the stadium) and it was clearly broken. The second injury was a fracture in my C5 vertebrae. I just remember it feeling like a stinger; I didn't think it was serious at all. I got up and jogged off the field. I went back in for one play and it got kind of stiff. So I came out and then it was stiff all night and all the next day. I got the MRI the next morning and it was fractured."
4. What are you doing in practice now and what are your limitations?
"I can do everything but take contact. I feel like I don't need this (green) jersey. It's just for precaution. I'm good. I'm cleared, but it's precautionary."
5. You are noticeably bigger and have received credit from the coaching staff regarding your work ethic. What has been your mindset and focus the last two years as you've made your physical recoveries?
"Just because something bad happens doesn't mean you should stop working hard. As soon as I could work out, I started hitting the weights as hard as I could and started getting my conditioning back as best I could. I just went from there. I give all the credit to our strength coaches. They do a great job with everybody here."
6. How do you put into words the task of replacing Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, and how do you think you guys are poised to handle that?
"We're definitely up for it. I don't think you can replace the style that Joe and Samaje had, but you can bring your own style. Me and Abdul (Adams), Trey (Sermon) and Marcelias (Sutton) all have different styles and we're ready to bring them to the offensive side of the ball. As far as my style, I'd say I'm versatile. I can catch. One cut and go."
7. You seem very reserved personality wise. Is that accurate? What's Rodney Anderson really like both on and off the field?
"On the field I'm quiet, but I'm loud when I need to be. If the offense needs some inspiration or some motivation, I can do that. Off the field, I'm pretty chill I guess. I room with Bobby Evans and Tay Evans, so I hang out with them a lot. I love watching movies, and I go to the movies a lot. I'm not sure there are many movies I haven't seen. I have a membership card that I swipe and get points. I've also taught myself to play the piano and I've been playing for about four years. I'm decent. As good as you can be when you teach yourself."
8. What would say are your best traits as a football player?
"I think I'm really good at leading by example. And I think I always give 100 percent, and then any extra if I have it."
9. What do you enjoy the most about both offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and running backs coach Jay Boulware?
"I love playing for them because they're fair. They always listen to what we have to say and it just makes everybody better. They always expect the most out of us. Everyone's getting the best out of everybody."
10. What are your thoughts on the offensive line, with all five starters and three other guys who started at least one game all back this year?
"I think our offensive line is amazing. We're going to be really good. I have full faith in them. I'm willing to put my trust in them and I think they trust me too."
11. Who are some teammates who have really impressed you so far in spring practice?
"Honestly, everyone's been competing really well. I mean I see the running backs every day, and I'm in the meeting room with them and they've all been doing really well. Trey, Marcelius, Jeremiah (Hall). Everybody who's new has been soaking up information, doing the right thing. Obviously we have a lot of work to do."
12. What would you say to fans who are worried about losing offensive playmakers Dede Westbrook, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon?"I would tell them to relax and that everything will be OK. We have some good people stepping up. We reload here."