In the city of Norman, there has been plenty of controversy surrounding the Sooners over the past several years with a certain running back at the center. That running back is not the topic of discussion for this distinguished dynasty article. This article will examine a player better known for his humble ways and sportsmanship, Samaje Perine.
Optimus Perine, as he’s playfully known by some, is the 21-year-old running back from Hendrickson High School in a town called Pflugerville near Austin, Texas. He’s a strong runner with considerable wiggle when you find out he weighs 237 pounds. Perine’s center of gravity standing at 5’11” becomes apparent the more you watch his film. Samaje is very difficult to bring down and his balance allows him to take hits where defenders fail to wrap him up and keep making forward progress. These attributes all helped him rack up considerable numbers for Oklahoma University over his three years there.
If you haven’t seen much of Perine then you need to see a little bit of his rushing ability. I’m not as versed in “film analysis speak” as some analysts but I know a damn good run when I see one. In this specific attempt, you can see that Perine notices his lane open up and make a quick stop to cut upfield and make the best of the blocks given to him. By my count, he breaks four tackles on his way to this TD and this is just something that he does on a regular basis. He’s a beast near the goal line and in short-yardage situations, but that is by no means all that defines him.
Here are another couple gifs for good measure if you weren’t convinced of his ability to keep his balance while bouncing off of tackles left and right.
Samaje’s size and goal line prowess will likely have people labeling him a short yardage grinder rather than a bell-cow back. People fall in love with a back’s ability to break tackle’s and punish defenders. While this is very gratifying, see gif below, it’s not always the best way to gain yards.
Before mentioning Perine’s shortcomings I’d like to re-iterate that Perine’s breakaway speed is an underrated part of his game. In too many games to list there are instances where Perine breaks off large chunks of yards to completely change the possession for the Sooners. In clutch games such as the Orange Bowl in 2015 within the first couple of minutes, Perine was breaking off large gainers on the first drive of the game leading to the first touchdown of the game. This bowl game was against the Clemson Tigers who were ranked #1 in that game.
Perine shows great hip fluidity while maneuvering through the defensive line and into the second level. This is a great indication of the agility he possesses as he moves between defenders. It’s difficult to find film on Perine that he’s not using the truck stick on his opponent, but rather his agility in open space. He’s not a Devonta Freeman or Joe Mixon type of elusive, but his raw strength combined with the agility he does show is promising.
There are some analysts touting Texas running back D’Onta Foreman ahead of Perine and in my humble opinion, there is no way Foreman is a better prospect than Perine. Foreman accomplished enough in one season to garner praise, yes, but his shortcomings are far greater than Perine’s. When rookie draft season comes along let everyone else ride the Twitter hype train of a 2,000-yard straight line runner who goes down on first contact while you wait patiently for the real late first prize.
Over the course of three seasons and a combined total of 685 rushing attempts Samaje Perine only had 6 total fumbles with 5 being lost. That’s 1 fumble for every 114 touches which is very low. He had exactly 2 fumbles each season and you can see in nearly every situation he uses excellent ball control. Even in games where the game is obviously out of hand he doesn’t get lazy or begin to showboat. The man takes care of the football.
The one area Perine’s stat sheet is found lacking in is receptions. It’s apparent Oklahoma didn’t need him as a receiving threat in almost any situation considering they’ve had Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Sterling Shepard to act as outlets. Mixon and Perine shared the field a lot in two back sets where misdirection and or a fullback lead was made by one or the other. This doesn’t mean that Samaje can’t catch the ball, it just means he wasn’t asked too much. After re-watching game film on him though I will say that he isn’t likely to line up in the slot in the NFL, but it’s very likely he catches a swing pass out of the backfield here and there.
Injuries kept Perine off the field at times which is expected with running backs, especially backs as physical as Samaje is. Looking at his history and watching him play, this is really a minor list of injuries compared to other running backs. A history of his injuries listed on Rotoworld are below.
- 12-6-14: Ankle injury (played in bowl game vs Clemson 3 weeks later)
- 1-7-16: Surgery to repair torn ligaments on left ankle
- 9-3-16: Shoulder (played through)
- 10-13-16: Pulled muscle (missed several weeks)
Samaje Perine was a 4-star recruit by Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN coming out of high school.
Over three years he had 4,122 yards for 49 TDs and 40 receptions for 321 yards and 2 TDs. This lead to Perine being the all-time Oklahoma University rushing leader ahead of names like Billy Sims, Adrian Peterson, and Demarco Murray. Perine put up the 5th best single season rushing total in 2014 and the 9th best in 2015. Imagine if he’d stayed healthy through his whole collegiate career and a talent like Mixon hadn’t been present to funnel touches away!
Perine finished 4th in all-time OU rushing touchdowns with 49 behind Demarco Murray at 50 and 7 out of first. It’s not far fetched that without a rushing QB like Baker Mayfield and obviously without Mixon that total would have been higher.
An article about Samaje Perine wouldn’t be complete without discussing the FBS single-game record he broke against Kansas in 2014 during his freshman season. Perine put up 427 yards and 5 touchdowns on 34 attempts as well as 1 reception for 19 yards. That amounts to 12.6 yards per attempt! Do yourself a favor and watch the draftbreakdown.com footage of that game as well as his other games. In the Kansas game, you can tell the defense is just flat out demoralized at times. There’s one moment specifically that stands out to me where a defender doesn’t even attempt to tackle Perine but instead opts to try and swing around and punch the ball out from behind. All this attempt does is guarantee Samaje’s touchdown, but it probably saved that young man some pain on his way to a desk job after college. (You don’t make it to the NFL giving up on plays, unless you play for Baylor and apparently they’re told to do that…)
In summary, I imagine Samaje Perine will wind up a day 2 pick and could very well find himself in a very advantageous position. There are so many teams that could use a running back like him who won’t get a chance at one of the top-tier backs in this class. If the P-Train winds up in a landing spot like Carolina, Oakland, Indianapolis, Green Bay or Philadelphia we could see his dynasty draft stock climb slightly. Any one of those positions would reward someone who took him in the 9-12 range of their rookie draft. There are still more landing spots that could disappoint dynasty owners that would cause him to fall giving many owners a bargain in the 2nd round. Given the chance, I believe he could succeed in the NFL as a bell cow with his vision, balance, and burst after contact. His breakaway speed is surprising and I am excited to see what his 40 time comes in at during the NFL Combine.
This gif simply states, that is all folks. Oh, and he CAN catch.