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The Early NFL Prospect Nobody Is Talking About… Yet

The Perimeter is a column on The Sideline that serves to shine light on the uncovered, the undiscovered, and the unpublished side of the sports world – things you won’t find on front pages. See the rest of the column here.

The NFL preseason has just begun, and we are getting a first look at the careers of many promising rookies such as Ezekiel Elliott, Carson Wentz, and Corey Coleman. These rookies make up the some of the future stars of the NFL. However, another future star still awaits at the college level and he is still only a junior who has not even declared yet.

That future star is Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine. He was a former 4-star recruit out of Pflugerville, Texas, and one that has already rocked the college football world in his first two seasons.

You might have heard of him from that performance where he rushed for 427 yards to set the single game record, no big deal. He has also rushed for 3,062 yds and 37 TD’s in 2 seasons with the Sooners and looks to be one of the top backs in the country leading into his junior year, despite sharing playing time with sophomore running back Joe Mixon.

At 5’10 and 235 pounds, Samaje Perine is an absolute physical freak of nature. He may also be one of  the strongest players in college football, with the ability to lift 315 lbs for 12 reps ( he can also max out at 440-450).

Not only that, but he boasts a 10 ft broad jump and a 35 inch vertical. Physically, he is an absolute beast, able to run over other defenders like fellow Sooner alumi Adrian Peterson and use his strength to bounce off defenders like Marshawn Lynch. If you don’t believe this, see it for yourself right here.

Samaje Perine3
Mark J. Rebilas

Ya, this kid is for real.

Now we’ve seen how good he can be on his own, but how does he compare to other top running backs in college football such as Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, and Christian McCaffrey?

When comparing Perine and Fournette, its almost like looking in a mirror. While Perine is about two inches shorter, they are both 235 pounds while having solid and sturdy frames. They both are good and strong power runners at heart, but Fournette is slightly faster out in the open and uses more finesse moves than Perine does. However, one issue with Fournette is that his technique and skills with pass blocking are lacking, mainly due to the fact that LSU runs a lot of play-action with Fournette running out to the side as a diversion. Perine, while not used with pass blocking frequently, has shown he has the ability to be a solid pass-blocker (and an even better one with more experience).

Dalvin Cook and Samaje Perine are like fire and ice. Perine is a strong power runner who mows down defenders and bounces off them like pinballs. Cook however is a smaller back who beats players with his track speed downfield. Cook has trouble picking up speed in the backfield without a ton of room, but when he does he takes off in a Chris Johnson-esque fashion. Even though Cook would blow Perine away in a downfield sprint, Perine is more of a stronger NFL-like back who is more capable of taking the blows at the next level.

Christian McCaffrey and Perine again are very much opposites. McCaffrey is a running back with good speed and elusiveness. He is able to weave through tackles with ease and his ability as a receiver and a returner makes him the most dynamic back in college football. Again, Perine possesses strength more so than speed, but he makes up for that in two areas, size and pass-blocking. McCaffrey has a smaller frame than Perine which may help him elude defenders, but could hurt him at the next level when he takes on bigger defenders. Also, Perine’s ability as a pass blocker very much exceeds McCaffrey’s. Perine’s frame and good footwork allows him to effectively block pass-rushing defenders, while McCaffrey’s slender frame prevents him from anchoring himself effectively against lineman and linebackers.

Now, we have all seen a prospect like this before. Think of a young Alabama running back a few years back by the name of Trent Richardson. However, while they share many of the same characteristics, Perine is a much more intriguing three-down back prospect. Coaches praise his quickness off the snap and ability to beat guys off the edge. And while he may not have the lightening quick track speed to leave defenses in the dust, his ability to truck, stiff arm, and spin off of any defender is one that NFL coaches will fall in love with.

There is a good chance he doesn’t enter the draft after this year, but that just gives him another year to show scouts what he can do. In the meantime, put him on your radars, because he will truck, stiff arm, and run his way onto the top of the scouting report.

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