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Abdul Adams carries the ball during the Sooners' victory over Baylor last season.

Oklahoma football: Sooners’ running back depth will be fine after Abdul Adams departs

NORMAN, Okla. — Ordinarily, a third-team running back transferring isn’t a big deal. However, the decision by Abdul Adams to leave Oklahoma for Syracuse on Monday still seemed shocking.

Yes, by the latter half of the 2017 season Adams clearly trailed Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon on the Sooners depth chart. It was going to be a formidable challenge for Adams to climb that ladder heading into next season. From mid-October through the end of the season, Anderson became one of the best running backs in the country. Sermon, who rushed for 758 yards as a freshman, has tremendous upside.

But Adams averaged 9.2 yards per carry in 2017. You could make a strong argument that the ankle sprain he suffered against Iowa State on Oct. 7 was the catalyst for the Sooners’ lone regular-season loss.

The injury forced Adams to miss the majority of the Iowa State along with games against Texas and Kansas State.

But the real reason Adams, who is from Landover, Md., fell out of favor were turnovers. Every game he had a fumble, he was benched. The last time he seemed to figure in the game plan was the Bedlam game on Nov. 4. It wasn’t ruled a fumble, but a dropped pass early was enough for the Sooners coaching staff to leave him on the sideline the rest of the way.

Adams had only 14 carries over the final six games. He didn’t see the field in the Big 12 title game or the Rose Bowl. Perhaps that should be have been an indication that Adams was likely headed out the door.

Still, those decisions usually are solidified before teams leave for bowl games. Apparently Adams hadn’t made up his mind or Oklahoma’s coaching staff spent most of January trying to convince him to stay.

How does Abdul Adams’ departure affect 2018 class?

It’s unlikely Oklahoma will add another running back for this class. It still has Anderson, Sermon and senior Marcelias Sutton. Former 2017 4-star recruit Kennedy Brooks comes off a redshirt and the Sooners have 2018 4-star recruit T.J. Pledger on campus. There’s also 3-star running back Tavion Thomas, who is committed and expected to sign on Feb. 7.

There’s no need to add a third running back in this class. Oklahoma plans to sign two running backs in its 2019 class. It already has 4-star recruit Isaiah Spiller committed.

Expect the Sooners to use that open scholarship on defense or another offensive position of need. The Sooners extended an offer to 3-star tight end Brayden Willis (Arlington, Texas) over the weekend. That could be a sign the coaching staff would like to bolster that position.

Even with Adams’ exit, the running back position group is the one at which Oklahoma is best prepared to absorb an unplanned departure.