No. 7 Oklahoma wary of Florida Atlantic RB Singletary
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley knows good offensive talent when he sees it — last season, his Sooners led the nation in total offense and quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
He sees a good one in Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary, who returns after rushing for 1,920 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. Riley believes he will be one of the nation’s best running backs this year. The seventh-ranked Sooners will have to account for him when they open the season Saturday against the Owls.
“This lines up be a year where we’re going to play a lot of good tailbacks, and this guy’s absolutely at the top of the list,” Riley said. “Over 1,900 yards last year, which, that’s hard to do anywhere, any time. Shows big play ability, shows consistency, very tough to bring down.”
Singletary, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound junior, also caught 19 passes for 198 yards last season. Riley said Singletary is especially dangerous because Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin knows how to put him in good positions.
“Lane and those guys have done a tremendous job scheme-wise of building around his talents,” Riley said. “He’ll definitely be tough to handle, no question about it.”
Oklahoma counters with its own elite back in Rodney Anderson . He didn’t even start until midseason last year, but he finished with 1,442 yards and 18 touchdowns from scrimmage as a sophomore. Riley said he’s in the same category as former Sooners Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, who both are in the NFL.
“I would say based on the way he played last year in the second half of the season and the way he’s performed in the offseason,” Riley said. “His skill set is different in some ways but he’s an elite player.”
Anderson has been getting some preseason Heisman hype, something he was unaware of until recently.
“I don’t really read into much hype that goes on outside of this program,” he said. “I didn’t even know I was on the Heisman list until my mom texted me and showed me. I’m just trying to win a game against Florida Atlantic.”
Kyler Murray replaces Mayfield as Oklahoma’s quarterback . He was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft but chose to return to school. The speedster completed 18 of 21 passes for 359 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions last season as Mayfield’s backup. He also ran 14 times for 142 yards, including a 66-yard burst on the first play against West Virginia. Kiffin is worried about containing Murray, one of the fastest players on Oklahoma’s team.
“These are the guys you want to play the least,” he said. “The guys that when plays don’t happen in rhythm, like a lot of plays in football, especially college, they have the ability to get out of trouble.
Usually, the 34-year-old Riley is the youngest guru in his games. This time, 25-year-old Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. is on the other side . He’s the son of former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. Riley said he has no doubts that Weis is up to the job.
“We have a lot of mutual friends and everybody I know has spoken really highly of him,” Riley said. “It looks like he’s one of the true up-and-comers in this business.”
Riley then reflected on his thought: “Kind of weird, me talking about up-and-comers, isn’t it?”
Former Oklahoma quarterback Chris Robison is one of three quarterbacks who are in the mix to start for Florida Atlantic. Oklahoma dismissed Robison last year for violating team rules. He’s battling De’Andre Johnson and former SMU quarterback Rafe Peavey for the job. Riley said he’s glad Robison has a chance to get things right.
“I want him to do great, and I hope they win every game after ours,” Riley said. “And I hope he plays lights out. I’ve got nothing but respect for him and his family. And wish him nothing but the best.”
HOLLYWOOD TAKE TWO
Oklahoma receiver Marquise Brown is set to have a big second season. The speedster had 1,095 yards receiving last season, the eighth-highest total in school history.
Riley said Florida Atlantic linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, the Conference USA preseason Defensive Player of the Year, is a focal point for the Sooners.
“I would say if we played them last season, maybe the only guy that played on his level is Roquan Smith from Georgia,” Riley said. “I mean, you’re talking about a fantastic player, one of the nation’s leaders in tackles, all over the field, smart, great tackler..”