Overshadowed by Mixon, Perine could excel in the NFL

While ESPN pundits were demonizing former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, the Washington Redskins drafted Samaje Perine – who owns the school record for rushing yardage.

The Cincinnati Bengals took Mixon in the second round despite an incident three years ago when he slugged a coed after she pushed him and slapped him in the face. The liberal commentators on ESPN gave more coverage to the campaign to not forgive Mixon that they did to almost every player beyond the first round.

They didn’t talk much about Perine, who had a more productive career than former OU greats Billy Sims (who won the Heisman Trophy), and NFL All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray and former All-Pro Joe Washington.

No one in 112 years of OU football has more yardage than Perine. And he did it in just three seasons.

Perine had 4,122 yards in three seasons for the Sooners. The 5-foot-11, 233-pounder recorded at least 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns in each season. Had he not been paired with Mixon the last two years, who knows how high those numbers would have risen.

“I’d much prefer to go through you than around you,” Perine said.

During his freshman year in 2014, Perine set the single-game NCAA record for rushing yards with 427 against Kansas. Perine didn’t start against the Jayhawks, but beginning with a 42-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game, the Pflugerville, Texas, native took over the game. By halftime, he already had 222 rushing yards before finishing with a total of 427 yards on the day following another 42-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Only 30 other college running backs have rushed for 4,000 yards, scored 40 touchdowns and averaged over 5 yards per carry on the ground since at least 2000. Twelve of those 30 have had successful NFL careers to this point. Perine is the only player on the Redskins roster that has rushed for 200 or more yards in any college or pro game, and he did it six times.

“You say, ‘Oh, he’s a big back, he’s a between-the-tackles back.’ He’s averaging six yards per carry, so he’s a little bit more than that,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for once he gets outside. (He has) that ability to run over people, stiff-arm people [and] still make people miss. Not to mention, the character on this kid is A-plus. We know we’re going to get the most out of him. He benched 30 times on 225 [pounds], so we know how strong he is. Just a total package is really what we liked.”

Perine joins a running backs group that includes incumbent starter Robert Kelley along with third-down back Chris Thompson .

“We couldn’t pass up on Samaje. We were happy to get him, man,” Gruden said after the draft. “We really enjoyed his interview, his toughness, watching him on tape. You feel his presence when he runs the football. He’s a hard guy to get down, and if you do get him down, you’re going to get up holding your shoulder or something because he’s going to hit you.”

ESPN commentator Mel Kiper is impressed with Perine and thinks he will make an immediate impact with Washington.

“Yes, it’s a crowded running back room in Washington, where undrafted rookie Rob Kelley took the reins in 2016 and finished as the lead back,” Kiper wrote. “Matt Jones and Chris Thompson each saw time, too. But I think the physical Perine could challenge Kelley for the starting spot for a team that simply has to trust the run more.”

According to Redskin fansite hogshaven.com, “Perine was not the best running back prospect in the 2017 NFL draft; truthfully, he probably wasn’t even in the top 5. But that doesn’t matter much anymore. Samaje Perine is on the Washington Redskins now, and he is easily the best running back prospect that the team has had in years. As such, he should be afforded every opportunity to compete for the RB1 role on this team; and if he is, don’t be surprised when he runs away with the job and never looks back.”