OU football: Forget speed and strength, Kennedy Brooks is just good at football
NORMAN — The question tripped Lincoln Riley up. It wasn't that he didn't have an answer, but the Oklahoma coach didn't know how to phrase his response.
Is Kennedy Brooks one of the most explosive running backs you've coached?
The numbers suggest so. Brooks is averaging 9.9 yards per carry, the most of any running back in college football with a minimum of 50 rush attempts. The redshirt freshman rushed for a career-high 171 yards last weekend on 25 carries.
Injuries have afflicted a once-deep stable of OU running backs. Now, entering the final game of the regular season, Brooks is the last man standing. OU's other four scholarship running backs are either out for the season with injury, or questionable to play Friday night at West Virginia.
In answering the question, Riley said Brooks is “productively explosive.”
He paused for a few seconds before continuing.
“He doesn't just wow you with his incredible burst of speed,” Riley said. “Nothing physically he does ... it's good, but in this world, at Oklahoma, there's nothing physically about him that's just like, holy cow. It's just, he's just ... we get caught up in combines and 40 times and all this. He's just really good at football.”
There's no simpler way to put it. The former four-star prospect from Mansfield, Texas has long been really good at football. He rushed for 7,658 yards in high school with 96 touchdowns on 8.7 yards per carry.
- Related to this story
- Article: Sooners' Lincoln Riley a semifinalist for George Munger Coach of the Year Award
- Article: Why OU running back Trey Sermon never had to look far to see how to persevere
- Article: No. 6 Oklahoma at No. 13 West Virginia: Time, TV channel, predictions
- Article: Oklahoma at West Virginia: 3 players to watch, 2 big questions, 1 wild prediction
- Article: Motley riding the wave at cornerback for the Sooners
- Video: OU Football-The Red Zone: Implications of West Virginia game
But Riley and his staff were hesitant to offer him a scholarship. What they see now from the 5-foot-11 and 205-pound back — otherworldly stats matched with an effortless running style — is what they saw from him in high school.
There was risk it wouldn't translate if the physical traits weren't there.
“He wasn't just built unbelievably,” Riley said, thinking back to Brooks' recruitment. “He didn't have 4.3 speed. You didn't see him just violently running over people.”
Daniel Maberry, the coach at Mansfield, had the same spiel for every recruiter.
“I told them all the time, ‘He's not gonna pass your eye test, but I promise you he's the real deal.' He doesn't always have that look, but when you watched him in high school, nobody ever caught him from behind. Nobody ever got a clean shot on him.”
That's where his immeasurables factor in. Where Brooks might lack in speed or strength, he relies on vision and patience.
Brooks is an avid chess player. When he plays football, it's easy to see why.
“It's almost like he can envision where guys are gonna be before they're there,” Maberry said. “He sets them up, and then makes his move.”
NO. 6 OKLAHOMA AT WEST VIRGINIA
•When: 7 p.m., Friday
•Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia
•TV: ESPN (Cox 29/HD 720, Dish 140, DirecTV 206, U-verse 602/HD 1602)
•Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7