Sooners open fall camp with plenty of running back options
During Big 12 football media day, coach Bob Stoops wasn’t shy about his feelings on the Sooners’ tailback situation.
“There’s a lot of potential in that backfield with those running backs,” Stoops said.
OU has six backs vying for carries in 2011, and Stoops has said anyone who can contribute will play.
With the many options the Sooners have, Oklahoma’s rushing attack this season will be handled by committee — letting whoever is performing stay on the field, Stoops said.
“To me, we have guys, if the guys up front do their job, they'll get through the hole and make something happen,” he said. “So I feel good about it.”
Here is a preview of the position battle heading into fall camp, with the running backs listed in the order of most likely to play.
The preseason All-Big 12 running back isn't even on the team's two-deep depth chart due to a foot surgery that kept him out during the spring, but Finch will see the field often — assuming he’s healthy.
Finch was the Sooners’ second-leading rusher with 398 yards last season. The sophomore is quick and is a threat to break a big play whenever he is on the field. As a smaller back (5-foot-7, 166 pounds) Finch provides OU with a shifty option on the field.
Outlook: If Finch can place his injury-plagued freshman season behind him, he should be the leader in the backfield.
Clay is another sophomore who should earn plenty of carries this season. As a freshman, Clay rushed for 127 yards in nine games while returning five kicks for 102 yards.
The San Diego native drew praise from Stoops and the coaching staff during the offseason, particularly for his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and for his consistency. His strong spring earned Clay the top spot on the depth chart.
Outlook: If Finch becomes the No. 1 back, Clay is likely to emerge as the Sooners’ No. 1A, relying on his versatility to win him playing time.
Miller excited Sooner fans in 2009, as he showed flashes of brilliance and a sign of things to come. However, a season-ending injury against Texas A&M derailed his progress, and the Garland, Texas, native redshirted last season as he recovered.
Prior to his injury, Miller averaged 7.2 yards per carry in a limited role, and displayed some big-play potential. Stoops said Miller had a great spring and was a tough runner in practices. Heading into camp, he is listed as the No. 2 back.
Outlook: Look for OU to turn to Miller as a solid third back in a heavy rotation.
Williams rushed for 2,438 yards and 33 touchdowns as a high school senior, and the five-star recruit has Sooner fans eager to see what he can do on the field.
The Brookshire, Texas, native enrolled early and practiced with the team this spring, drawing praise from coaches and players about his size and speed, which has been compared to former OU running back Adrian Peterson.
Outlook: Williams might be the best of the bunch, and while Stoops always has said the best players will play, look for Williams to slowly earn playing time throughout the year. But don’t be surprised if one big performance pushes him into the second or third spot on the depth chart.
Calhoun has primarily been used to provide depth at running back during the last two seasons, but he has stepped in nicely in limited action. A knee injury against Colorado ended Calhoun’s season last year.
The junior rushed for a career-high 94 yards against Texas A&M in 2009, finishing the year with 220 yards and one touchdown.
Outlook: A capable backup, but don’t expect to see Calhoun on the field often until the second unit is brought in to games.
No other running back took advantage of his opportunity in the spring than Whaley, a transfer from Langston University.
The walk-on junior was the biggest surprise of the spring, leading all backs in rushing in the Red-White game. Stoops called Whaley reliable and patient.
Outlook: Stoops rewards reliable players, so expect Whaley to see some carries late in games.