There’s no doubt that 5-star running back Joe Mixon is the pride of the Oklahoma Sooners’ very talented recruiting class of 2014.
The No. 1-ranked all-purpose back in the country, Mixon impressed scouts with his mix of speed and explosiveness. Throw in his ability to contribute in the passing game and it comes as no surprise that the Oakley, Calif., native has drawn comparisons to former Oklahoma rushing greats Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray.
But just how good will Mixon be during his freshman season?
Well, for starters, it all depends on how much playing time he will see next season.
Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue.
The Sooners will lose each of their top three rushers—Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch—from 2013. That leaves a backfield crop of Keith Ford, Alex Ross and fellow 2014-signee Samaje Perine.
Out of that group, only Ford—a 5-star prospect in the class of 2013—should offer any serious competition to Mixon.
Appearing in five games last season, Ford rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. His best performance came against Tulsa, when the Cypress, Texas, native went for 46 yards on seven carries, finding the end zone once.
But Mixon is no stranger to putting up numbers on the ground.
During his senior season at Freedom High, he racked up 1,443 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. Mixon also hauled in 18 receptions and 383 yards for six touchdowns.
“He has play making ability and size,” running backs coach Cale Gundy raved about Mixon, per SoonerSports.com. “He is a home run threat any time he touches the ball. The impressive thing about him is how dangerous he is running down the field catching the ball as a receiver.”
Choosing one or the other will be a difficult task for head coach Bob Stoops, as both bring their own respective styles and benefits to the rushing attack.
Instead, look for Stoops to opt for a running back by committee to begin the season.
Given his style of running—a bruising back, who prefers to run over defenders on his way down the field—Ford will see heavy use during short-yardage situations. More specifically, he will see the majority of the carries at the goal line.
Conversely, Mixon utilizes his breakout speed to expose holes in opposing defenses. Forget power, he relies on his elusiveness and athleticism to dance around the competition and leave them looking foolish.
Much like Peterson did in 2014, look for Mixon to put distance between himself and Ford as the season wears on.
A fair prediction for Mixon is to see him finish near 1,100-1,300 yards on the ground while scoring about 10 touchdowns. Although he will be the primarily back by season’s end, Ford will still cut into his carries and take away several touchdowns near the goal line.
No disregard to Ford, but Stoops and his coaching staff didn’t go through all that trouble to pull Mixon out of California just to limit his potential. He’s far too talented to be held back.
With Mixon in the backfield, not only will Oklahoma always be just one play away from a touchdown, but quarterback Trevor Knight will also have a reliable checkdown option to go to when all else fails.
Don’t underestimate the impact of having a running back who can catch the ball. Especially with a quarterback who favors lateral throws as much as Knight does.
As the 2014 season draws closer, the comparisons to Peterson and Murray will only grow.
But if Mixon has it his way, by the end of his career in Norman, people will be searching for the next Joe Mixon.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.
Recruit star rankings via 247Sports.