CRIMSON CORNER

What Oklahoma Transfer RB TJ Pledger Brings To Utah Football

Jan 17, 2021, 4:48 PM
TJ Pledger - Oklahoma...
Oklahoma Sooners running back T.J. Pledger (5) runs through TCU Horned Frogs safety Ar'Darius Washington (24) for a touchdown during the game between the TCU Horned Frogs and the Oklahoma Sooners on October 24, 2020 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah football received some massive news over the last week when Oklahoma RB TJ Pledger announced he was joining the Utes.

TJ Pledger entered the transfer portal on Dec. 21 after three seasons at Oklahoma before choosing to go to Utah on Jan. 11.

What kind of running back is Utah getting in TJ Pledger? The Crimson Corner caught up with OU beat writer Ryan Aber of the Oklahoman, who covered Pledger during his three years in Norman.

Utah Is Getting A Fast RB In TJ Pledger

This past season for Oklahoma was Pledger’s best in a Sooner uniform. He had 95 carries for 451 yards and 5 touchdowns. Pledger is listed at 5’9 and 193 lbs. so he relies on his speed to get production in the run game.

“He’s not the biggest back in the world but has some speed,” said Aber. “I mean, we’ve seen OU use him as a kick returner fairly regularly, probably would have been in that position a little bit more had he not suffered some injuries during his time at OU. Obviously, his playing time decreased significantly this year after Rhamondre Stevenson’s return but it’s easy to forget for OU fans just how big this guy was in a couple games, right before Rhamondre Stevenson came back. He’s a guy who had a lot of promise. I think certainly he would have had a roll on OU’s offense moving forward. But felt like he wanted to take a step out of that and find maybe a little bit bigger role elsewhere. I think he’s a guy who can have a pretty significant impact at Utah.”

Decreased Playing Time At Oklahoma Led Pledger To Transfer

Oklahoma has a bunch of talent in their running back room. Kennedy Brooks opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 related concerns but will be back for the Sooners in 2021. Seth McGowan received reps during the 2020 season alongside Pledger. Then when Stevenson returned, it all changed for Pledger.

“Rhamondre Stevenson, who had been suspended for six games beginning with the Peach Bowl a year ago,” Aber stated. “That suspension was lifted in time for the Texas Tech game, Rhamondre Stevenson moves in and TJ Pledger doesn’t get more than seven carries in any game the rest of the way. It’s easy to see why, Rhamondre Stevenson was fantastic for OU, not just running the ball but was a great pass catching threat out of the backfield, which TJ Pledger can do. But he’s not the the big, powerful, dynamic guy that Stevenson wound up being.”

Pledger had two really big performances during the 2020 season for the Sooners. In their win over Texas in the Red River Showdown, Pledger ran for 131 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. The following week in OU’s win over TCU, Pledger had 22 carries for 122 yards and one TD. That gave the Sooners a much needed spark in their rushing attack.

“TJ Pledger played a really critical role,” Aber mentioned. “They struggled to run the football early in the season. It wasn’t just the running backs struggling, it was the offensive line. They really fought to be able to create any kind of holes, which was surprising for an offensive line that had everybody returning from a really good unit a year ago. TJ Pledger had a couple of breakout games and helped sort of settle them down offensively when things were going wrong for them and get them to a point where Rhamondre Stevenson came back. After Stevenson came back, Pledgers’ use went way, way down.”

Stevenson entered the 2021 NFL Draft after a tremendous senior season for the Sooners.

Utah picked up two running backs via the transfer portal this offseason with Pledger and LSU’s Chris Curry set the join the team for the 2021 season.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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