The Sooners have a stacked backfield that is two-deep solid at both fullback and running back. Goals for this spring should include developing an expanded role for fullback Trey Millard and figuring out how OU's ball carriers will mesh with the planned involvement of the quarterback in the running game.
Millard (6-2, 256, Sr.) and Aaron Ripkowski (6-1, 260, Jr.) are punishing blockers. Millard also has impressed running (33 carries, 198 yards) and catching the ball (30 receptions, 337 yards, 4 touchdowns). He’s not easy to bring down.
But we already know plenty about Millard. His understudy is still something of an unknown.
Ripkowski didn’t touch the ball a year ago, as he was used mostly to block in the “Belldozer.” He is such a powerful blocker that he knocked out a couple of UTEP players in the season opener last year. Will this spring offer a chance for him to make a bid for some time outside of a gimmick package?
Damien Williams (6-0, 208, Sr.) transferred from an Arizona junior college last year and made an impression right off the bat at running back with his 65-yard TD run against UTEP. He got his first start in the fourth game against Texas Tech, and Williams set a Red River Shootout record with a 95-yard touchdown run the next week in Dallas. Damien collected 946 yards on 176 carries and scored 11 times. He also caught 34 passes for 320 yards and a score.
Brennan Clay (5-11, 201, Sr.) was waiting in the wings for his chance to impress, but Williams’ performance kept him mostly riding the bench. That was until Iowa State. With Williams hobbled by an ankle injury, Clay took over and ran all over the Cyclones (24 carries, 154 yards, 1 TD). Williams returned to the starter slot, but Clay also became the leading rusher and hero of the Bedlam battle with Oklahoma State. Clay’s 18-yard TD beat the Cowboys in overtime. Clay finished the year with 555 yards in 93 totes and 6 TDs. He also caught 15 balls for 100 yards and 1 TD.
Clay and Williams have the top of the RB rotation all but locked up. What about Roy Finch (5-7, 175, Sr.)?
The dimunitive senior has dazzled on occasion when he has gotten his hands on the ball. His lack of effort in practices apparently kept him riding the bench last season, though.
“Roy is going to have to work harder,” said co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell after the UTEP game, where Finch didn’t get to touch the ball once. Finch ended up with 7 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown in 2012, and he caught 2 passes for 6 yards. He was mostly used to return kickoffs. In the two previous years, he racked up 196 carries for 1,003 yards and 5 TDs. He caught 44 passes for 345 yards.
With all that past production, it feels like such a waste to see Finch whiling away on the bench. Spring would make as good a time as any to make his case to get back in action.
The next 15 practices will also give redshirt freshmen Alex Ross (6-1, 204) and David Smith (5-10, 193) a chance to get some more seasoning and impress the coaches.