Recent NFL draft history has proven that teams can find productive running backs in the later rounds, getting great value at a key position that can keep their offensive attack balanced. One such gem in the 2022 NFL Draft class? Oklahoma’s Kennedy Brooks, who leaves the Sooners for the next level after stringing together an excellent 2021 campaign that included career-highs in rushing yards (1,253) and touchdowns (13). Brooks recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his monstrous 2021 season, his experience playing for coach Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, how Riley's scheme prepared him for the NFL, his goals for this year's NFL Scouting Combine, and so much more. JM: I thought you had your best season in 2021. You rushed for a career-high 1,253 yards and a career-high 13 touchdowns. Those are some really nice numbers. What changed for you in 2021? KB: I definitely approached the game a bit differently. I was having a ball out there in 2021. I sat out the 2020 season and it just made me appreciate the game so much more. It made me that much hungrier for success. I was having more fun in 2021. I switched up the approach. I was more detail-oriented in everything I did. It went beyond just running the ball. I was a better pass-catcher. I was better in pass protection. I better understood every position and assignment on the field. JM: I want to expand on that a little. You opted out of the 2020 season, as you said. Was there an acclimation period involved when getting back on the field in 2021? KB: No, not really. I wouldn’t say that there was. Not playing for a year definitely made me miss the game. I would say the rust came off after one week of padded practices. Once those pads came back on, I quickly got back into the swing of things. I quickly hit the ground running. I felt comfortable. I felt like myself. I took the pressure off myself by not worrying about the next year or anything like that. I took it one game, one carry at a time. I lived in the moment and it led to my best season. JM: You recently received your invite to this year’s Scouting Combine. Congratulations on that. What are you most looking forward to? KB: Thank you for that. I’m honestly looking forward to the team meetings. I can’t wait to get in front of the coaching staff and have those critical conversations. I’m excited to discuss and showcase what I’ve done and what I’m all about. I can’t wait to start establishing those relationships. The combine is going to be a great opportunity for me to prove myself. JM: It’s such an important part of the process. You played at Oklahoma in Lincoln Riley’s offense. How do you best describe and recall your role in Riley’s offense? KB: I think coach Riley trusted me as a dependable option in his offense. They relied on me for production in a lot of different areas. I had to run the ball, catch the ball, and play in pass protection. I did a little bit of everything for our offense. I went out there and I did that. I was a dependable guy in that offense. I stand on that. I proved that throughout my three years at Oklahoma. JM: How did playing in coach Riley’s offense help get you ready for the next level? KB: It helped me a lot because it showed me and exposed me to so much. Coach Riley does a little bit of everything with his offense (laughs). We ran the zone scheme, we ran every type of passing concept you can imagine. We were extremely balanced and versatile. Coach Riley’s offense made me a well-rounded player. I’m comfortable running anything and I know I’m going to be comfortable in whichever scheme I end up in at the next level. That was the best thing that could have happened to me. I’ve seen it all. JM: It’s so important. What’s your favorite aspect of playing the running back position? KB: I love when the defense knows you’re going to get the ball and we still gash them on the ground (laughs). Running the ball right down their throats effectively even when they know it’s coming is the best feeling in the world. I loved dominating in the running game. Everybody in the stadium knows you’re about to run the ball. The opposing coaches know it. The defense knows it. We still did it at a high level. That’s my favorite part of it. JM: Who are some running backs you enjoy watching and studying? Are there any ball-carriers in particular you’d love to sit down and have a conversation with? KB: I would love to learn from just about any running back in the NFL. I would love to sit down and pick their brains. As for the guys I’ve watched and learned from, one of them was my coach! DeMarco Murray. Having him in my corner right now and throughout this whole process is helping me out so much. He’s such a fantastic resource. He’s a great role model for me. He’s a great person in general. I’m so thankful for him. JM: He’s an excellent running back, coach, and person to have in your corner. I love putting running backs in this scenario. If you could choose between a 75-yard touchdown run, or six-plus more carries on a long scoring drive, which would you choose and why? KB: That’s such a tough question. The long run is cool and all, but I might pick the six or seven carries. Man, that’s so hard though (laughs). You know what, scratch that. I take it back. I’ll take the 75-yard touchdown (laughs). That’s 100% my final answer. Outrunning everybody en route to the end zone, that’s one of the best feelings. You get to showcase your speed and that extra gear on a run like that. That takes a different level of dominance. JM: What’s one area of your game you’re looking to improve throughout this process? KB: Everything. I’m excited to showcase my speed and pass-catching abilities throughout the process. I’m ready to address those questions if teams have them. I’m a smooth route-runner. I’m ready to prove that my football I.Q. is impressive. I’m an intelligent player. I have great footwork. I have smooth hips and change directions effectively. It’s all a part of the process. I just want to go out there and prove that I can do it all. JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today. What kind of impact is Kennedy Brooks going to make at the next level? KB: I’m going to make a big impact at the next level. I’m ready to hit the ground running. I want to dominate the league as a rookie ball-carrier. I can’t wait for it all to come together.
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