Racking up more than 4,000 rushing yards in just three years at Oklahoma, Samaje Perine has the experience and skills to potentially be an immediate contributor for the Washington Redskins.
The University of Oklahoma has produced brilliant running backs over the years, ranging from Billy Sims – the first-overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft – to former Washington Redskins All-Pro Joe Washington and, more recently, Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray.
But in the school's 112 years of having a football program, no one has collected more rushing yards than new Redskins running back Samaje Perine.
Racking up 4,122 yards in three seasons for the Sooners, Perine is Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher. In each of his four seasons in Norman, the 5-foot-11, 233 pounder recorded at least 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns.
During his freshman season in 2014, Perine set the single-game NCAA record for rushing yards with 427 against Kansas. Perine wasn't the starter against the Jayhawks, but beginning with a 42-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game, the Pflugerville, Texas, native took over the game. By halftime, he already had 222 rushing yards before finishing with a total of 427 yards on the day following another 42-yard run in the fourth quarter.
It was the highlight performance of a college career in which he averaged six yards per carry.
"You say, 'Oh, he's a big back, he's a between-the-tackles back.' He's averaging six yards per carry, so he's a little bit more than that," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "I don't think he gets enough credit for once he gets outside that ability to run over people, stiff-arm people [and] still make people miss. Not to mention, the character on this kid is A-plus. We know we're going to get the most out of him. He benched 30 times on 225 [pounds], so we know how strong he is. Just a total package is really what we liked."
Perine joins a running backs group that includes incumbent starter Robert Kelley along with third-down back Chris Thompson. Like his time at Oklahoma when he split time with other running backs, Perine will likely be part of a joint running back situation.
On Saturday, April 29, 2017, the Washington Redskins selected running back Samaje Perine with the 114th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
"If you are dressed on game day, one of the three that is dressed, you're going to get carries," Gruden said. "Whether it's 18 for Fat Rob and 15 for Perine and five for Chris; however it pans out. They will compete and there is always going to be competition here that's never going to change."
Perine believes he's more of a downhill runner against opposing defenses, but has no issue cutting on a dime and making players miss him that way, too. He said he's been working with a personal coach who forces him to make a cut one way before speeding up-field.
"I've been working on making people miss throughout this whole process, so I've gotten better at that," Perine said. "I'd much prefer to go through you than around you."
While Perine's body of work as a ball carrier is polished, he understands that one phase of his game he'll have to continue to work on is his pass-catching out of the backfield.
Perine caught jus 40 passes in his three seasons at Oklahoma.
"Don't really have much game film of pass catching, but that was something I also worked on throughout this process," Perine said. "And you know my hands have gotten a lot better, route running has gotten a lot better. Pass pro has always been something that I've prided myself on starting from high school and continuing that process through college. So I feel like my pass pro is pretty good. You can always get better at stuff but coming out, as a starting point, I feel like my pass pro is pretty good."