It was one of those moments that typified the kind of luck that has befallen the Sooners lately: hotshot running back DeMarco Murray splayed out on the turf in Lubbock with a dislocated kneecap sustained while chasing an onside kick.
In 2007, Murray gave OU the kind of home run threat that the Sooners lacked with Chris Brown and the now-departed Allen Patrick in the lineup. Brown and Patrick provided a strong, dependable running attack with Murray sidelined, and OU remained a very good team in the Las Vegas native's absence.
With Murray on the field, however, the Sooner offense was as explosive as any in the country. Dynamic runs like his 65-yard touchdown trot in last year's Red River Shootout, when Murray toted the rock 17 times for 128 yards, illustrate the extra spark the redshirt sophomore runner brings to OU's offense. For the year, Murray had 13 rushing TDs and almost 800 rushing yards.
Of course, that doesn't mean Murray's fellow tailbacks are a bunch of stiffs either. Junior Chris Brown has proven himself to be a warrior in his first two years at OU, ably filling in when Patrick and superstar Adrian Peterson went down, which seemed to be often. Brown, the leading rusher in Louisiana high school history, finished the year with more than 600 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Yet, despite Brown's overall production, keep in mind that he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2007, with a long run of 17 yards. In contrast, Murray had a season-long run of 92 yards and an average of 6.0 yards per carry.
Brown and Murray are joined by Norman's own Mossis Madu, a shifty redshirt sophomore who saw limited action in 2007 but impressed the OU coaches in the spring. Highly touted freshmen Jermie Calhoun and Justin Johnson also could figure into the mix at some point.
Fullbacks in offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson's scheme serve as little more than lead blockers, but it would be tough to find a better one than junior Brody Eldridge. Eldridge, who shuttles between fullback and tight end throughout the game, earned All-Big XII honorable mention honors last year, despite having just four catches and zero rushing attempts on the season.
With all due respect to the embarrassment of talent in the USC backfield, OU might have the best stable of running backs in the country. Yet, without a healthy Murray, there's no way that OU comes anywhere near a national championship in 2008. The same goes for the Big XII title as well.
(Next: Wide Receivers)