A 4 star recruit out of Katy, Texas, Anderson arrived in Norman in 2015 after choosing the Sooners over many other highly touted programs and came ready to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, fate had another plan for him.
In the second game of his freshman season, he suffered a broken leg on a special teams play that ended his season. He ended up with 1 carry for 5 yards as his lone offensive statistics.
In the 2016 preseason he suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck, ending his second season before it even started – leading to a redshirt year.
In 2017, he finally got a chance to show what he was capable of doing. Oklahoma was a top 5 ranked team to start the season hand had their eyes focused on a championship run. His season started slow, as he only got 25 offensive touches for 109 yards in the first five games. Over the next couple weeks he was able to wrestle away the starting position and open some eyes.
Over the final eight games, he put up impressive numbers. On the ground he had 166 carries for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He added 14 receptions for 257 yards (18.4 yards per reception) and 5 more touchdowns. That is an average of 167 yards and 2 touchdowns per game. The arrow was pointing up.
In 2018, he began the season with 5 carries for 100 yards in a blowout win against Florida Atlantic that included two long touchdown runs. Week 2 they took on UCLA and again Anderson was bitten by the injury bug suffering a knee injury that would cost him his season again.
Four years. Three seasons lost to injury.
Four years of practice, training, weightlifting and rehabilitation for essentially one year of playing. It says a lot about his love for the game to put himself and his body through all that.
He has since declared for the NFL draft. He already already has his degree so he may have entered the draft regardless of the injury anyway. So let’s take a look at him and see what kind of a player he can be at the next level.
What I Liked
Size – Prototypical size you look for in a running back. Checks in at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and he looks the part with strong upper body and thick legs.
Physicality – He runs with good pad level and is difficult to take down showing very good contact balance to run through defenders and break tackles.
Setting up his blocks – Does a nice job of pressing gaps to move defenders and set up blocks at the line of scrimmage. Especially good on the second level and downfield.
Pass Catching – Shows good hands and ability to adjust around his frame. He tracks the ball well both from the backfield and when lined up in the slot or on the outside.
Competitive Toughness – To work back from three major injuries shows his willingness to put in the effort off the field. On the field no moment seems to big and he showed a big play ability and performed well in big games.
What I Didn’t Like
Patience – At the line of scrimmage he missed some better running lanes than the ones he chose. Being a little more patient and waiting for the blocks to happen could improve this area of his game.
Outside running – Seems more suited for a Gap or Inside Zone running scheme. Not really a negative but could limit his effectiveness in some schemes.
Elusiveness – To be a good back you need to get the extra yards and you can either break tackles or make people miss. He doesn’t show the great short area quickness and agility to make guys miss. Usually takes a few steps to gather himself before making the cut.
Pass Protection – This is a generality for most backs. Displays the effort and ability but needs to be more consistent on a regular basis for the next level.
Injuries – Obvious issue to point out but it is necessary. Three major injuries in 4 years will be scrutinized within the draft process.
Some Plays to Highlight
Balance – Simple check down pass but it’s the contact balance that catches your eye. Runs right through one player. Pushed outside by another and retains his balance to get in the endzone.
Running in Space – Big hole to get to the second level and Anderson does a nice job of manipulating the safety and taking a serpentine route downfield to keep his blocker in between him and the defender.
Contested Catch – Go route up the seam from the backfield. Does a nice job to avoid the linebacker to get behind him and shows good concentration to make the contested catch.
Vision in Space – Once he gets to the second level Anderson shows great vision to make three cuts on the second level until he slips down after a big gain.
Patience – This one has a positive end result and he eventually found the right lane but you’ll see the big hole open to his left that he initially misses as he cuts it up inside into a defender before spinning off.
He has had a bumpy road to get where he is but there is promise there. He has the size you want for an NFL running back. He has shown the ability to perform at a high level and perform well in big games. He runs with good pad level and balance and can break tackles. Has good hands and can catch the ball on the move in contested situations and get yards after the catch.
He hasn’t stayed healthy.
You can’t help but hope for the guy after what he has gone through and the commitment and effort it takes to come back from the pitfalls that he has encountered.
Some people believe bad things happen in threes. If that’s the case, Rodney Anderson has met his quota. Hopefully, good things lie ahead for him.