OU football: Ronnie Perkins made an immediate and strong impact on Sooners' defense
NORMAN — Ronnie Perkins bounced around nervously in the end zone at Jones AT&T Stadium last Saturday night.
The OU defensive end had just finished doing some extra work with strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie. Now, nearly 11 months after he last played a game, all there was left for Perkins to do was prove himself on the field.
Five plays into the game, he got his chance, and the play went about as well as it could’ve gone for Perkins and the Sooners.
Sure, Red Raiders running back SaRodorick Thompson ran for 28 yards on Perkins’ first play on the field, but the way the play played out answered any questions Perkins — or anyone else — had on his readiness to not only return but make a difference for the Sooners.
Perkins worked his was around a block by tackle Ethan Carde, but by the time he did that, Thompson was about seven yards down the field.
Perkins pivoted and took off.
Thompson is one of the top backs in the Big 12, but Perkins chased him down, pushing the back out of bounds at the 5.
Tech scored a play later, but Perkins’ first play showed he was ready to help the Sooners’ defense in a big way.
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“That got some of the cobwebs out,” Perkins said. “I also noticed like, ‘Dang, I’m outside, easy,’ so I knew I wasn’t out of shape.
“It kind of felt good to knock those cobwebs out quick.”
OU’s defensive line has been strong this season — especially in Perkins’ defensive end spot as Isaiah Thomas was perhaps the Sooners’ best defender in the early part of the season — but it was clear from the start that Perkins adds another element.
He was OU’s best pass rusher a year ago and looked the part in his return, with three tackles — two for loss — and a quarterback hurry.
“He was ready,” Sooners defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “The idea now is we progress from there.”
Perkins said he wasn’t completely pleased with his play in his first game back, but that it was a good starting point.
“I left some plays out on the field,” Perkins said. “So, still got a little rust to knock off. But that’s why we practice, so I’m just ready to keep working.”
Perkins didn’t want to talk much about the experience of being suspended, which sources have said was due to a positive test for marijuana, but said the frustrations of that situation slipped away in recent weeks as his return became closer.
“It’s was easy to get our heads scrambled,” Perkins said. “But really just trusted the process, trusted Coach (Lincoln) Riley, trusted my team and the coaches were helping me stay locked in and I was trusting God.
“Whenever I was going to get my opportunity, I was going to be ready for it.”
Perkins’ return gives Grinch and defensive line coaches Calvin Thibodeaux and Jamar Cain some flexibility on how they use Thomas in particular. But it’s even more clear after Saturday’s game that Perkins — as long as he’s healthy and eligible — is not only going to be a major piece in the Sooners’ defense but might be OU’s best defender.
“Regardless of how much football that you played, if you’ve played 1,000 snaps in your career or 2,000 snaps in your career or whatever it is, game one is game one, even if it’s at the end of October,” Grinch said.
“I still think his best football this year was not played this past Saturday although you saw the impact.”