NORMAN, Okla. -- They aren't quite Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, but Oklahoma running backs Abdul Adams and Trey Sermon are getting the job done for the third-ranked Sooners.
When Perine and Mixon left early for the NFL after last season, the Sooners were left searching for production at running back. Adams and Sermon have stepped up and been capable replacements, providing balance for quarterback Baker Mayfield and the nation's No. 1-ranked offense. Though Marcelias Sutton and Rodney Anderson have had their moments, coach Lincoln Riley said Adams and Sermon have moved ahead in the pecking order because of their versatility.
"A little bit of week-to-week there," Riley said. "I think those guys have performed the best in the games so far, no doubt about that. They'll get the first crack at it."
Adams, a sophomore, ran for 164 yards against Baylor, including a school-record 99-yard touchdown run, in Oklahoma's 49-41 win . He has 330 yards rushing this season going into this weekend's home game against Iowa State.
"He's one of the hardest workers I know," fullback Dimitri Flowers said. "In the offseason in summer workouts you can tell he wanted to make this year different. He's proven that."
Adams also has four catches for 73 yards and a touchdown this season.
"As a receiver, it's really remarkable, honestly," Riley said. "His hands were a major question mark coming in. We liked everything else about him. And he has worked his tail off on it. He spends as much time on the jugs and catching tennis balls and all the different things we do with our receivers. He spends as much or more time as any receiver would have on it. It's not a secret why he's improved so quickly."
Sermon had 12 carries for 148 yards against Baylor, all in the fourth quarter. It was reminiscent of the way Perine used to close out games.
"It's something like Samaje used to do," Mayfield said. "They're two different players, but the same type of running - very physical. It's great to have that luxury of knowing that we don't even have to throw the ball late in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory."
For the season, Sermon has 288 yards rushing. He leads the team with 43 carries and three rushing touchdowns. Flowers is impressed with Sermon's maturity.
"He doesn't play like a true freshman," Flowers said. "That's something that we're going to need in this offense if we want to continue to be successful."
Flowers has had great moments, too. He has nine catches for 168 yards this season, including seven catches for 98 yards against Ohio State. Last season, with Mixon and Perine out, Flowers switched to running back and ran for 115 yards on 22 carries and caught three passes for 34 yards and a touchdown.
With so much talent on the team, each back has to be patient and take advantage when opportunities arise.
"We have a lot of playmakers," Flowers said. "We have a lot of people on this team that can get the job done. I think it's pretty hard, but at the same time, no one's upset about it at all. We're very happy with where we're at, and we're only going to get better."
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