Kennedy Brooks opts out, time for OU’s youth
The Oklahoma running back room was pretty young heading into preseason camp, and the youth movement just got accelerated even more.
Running back Kennedy Brooks, coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, is opting out of the 2020 season, as reported first by The Athletic on Sunday afternoon.
The NCAA has said anybody who opts out of the season because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will still be on scholarship. Brooks becomes the first OU name to go that route.
Head coach Lincoln Riley was asked after the first day of camp (July 31) and on Saturday if there were any opt outs. Riley said there weren’t any on both occasions but stressed that constant communication would be going on between the program and the players and their family.
“That’s the one thing we’ve told our families, our players is listen: we’re not all in the same situation,” said Riley in a Zoom call Saturday. “On the field, our family situations, our health situations, we all look at this through our own lens and how it directly relates to us. You can’t make a blanket decision for everybody.
“Everybody’s got to look at this individually and make the decision that’s best for them. And our deal is we’re going to be supportive of that decision. We’re going to make sure you have all the information you could possibly need to make those decisions and then once they’re made, we’re going to deal with it and we’re going to move on.”
It is not clear whether Brooks has opted out and will focus on the 2021 NFL Draft. Brooks was close to leaving school after the 2019 season for the 2020 Draft, but nothing is concrete.
Brooks was expected to be the anchor for the Sooners and first-year running backs coach DeMarco Murray. Brooks is the second major loss for OU’s 2020 season at running back.
Former running back Trey Sermon transferred to Ohio State in the spring. Sermon rushed for 2,076 yards in his career with 22 touchdowns, while Brooks totaled 2,067 career yards and 18 touchdowns.
Riley said he thought Brooks was in the best shape of his career, but now OU and Murray will have to turn to the young guys, or at least inexperienced guys.
If Rhamondre Stevenson, T.J. Pledger, Marcus Major and Seth McGowan have been looking for opportunities, they’re knocking now.
“T.J. Pledger has had a really strong opening to camp. Similar to last year. He’s played well. He’s in shape,” Riley said. “He’s confident. He knows what we’re doing. Rhamondre Stevenson I would also add much improved from last year. Much greater understanding of what we’re doing.
“Been pleased with the young guys. Marcus Major – great to have him healthy. Back strong, fast, another guy so much more locked in to what we’re doing and so much more confident. Seth McGowan has been a real bright spot to camp as well. He’s as talented or maybe just as talented as we thought or maybe even a little bit more. Has some impressive qualities for a young guy.”
Stevenson is expected to be suspended for the first part of the season, although Riley said he could not clarify how long the suspension will be or if having just a 10-game regular season schedule will impact the length.
Major is coming off shoulder surgery, following an injury midway through the season, while Pledger scored his first career touchdown in OU’s loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl.
It’s a battle for Murray, for sure, on the recruiting trail, but it just got a lot more interesting and challenging for the OU legend within his room on campus.