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Is Damien Williams Really an All-American for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2013?

Kevin Jairaj – USA TODAY Sports

With the summer season in full effect, there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to a college football product on the field. This empty period gives rise to a bevy of preseason lists that try and hold us over until kickoff in the fall. One of the more notable lists comes from Phil Steele who just recently released his preseason All-American picks. One slightly surprising name on the list was Oklahoma Sooners running back Damien Williams on the fourth team. Should the Sooner back really be considered among the best backs in the country?

The senior tailback was the star of the Oklahoma running game in 2012, taking the bulk of the carries. He finished the year with 176 carries for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns, well ahead of the No. 2 back Brennan Clay who rushed 93 times for 555 yards and six touchdowns. The pair of them combined to carry the Sooner running game in 2012, though it was very much the secondary option in their offense. While Steele is surely projecting Williams will only improve on his production in 2013, there’s a lot more evidence to suggest he won’t eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark next season.

Oklahoma will be transitioning to a more run-heavy offense with elements of the read option in 2013, according to Bob Stoops, as they embrace the skill set of their new quarterback, Blake Bell. That means Bell will need more touches in the running game, taking away from Williams’ load. Clay is also back and will need touches to stay in the rhythm of the offense as the primary backup, but Oklahoma will also likely work redshirt freshman Alex Ross into the running back rotation for stretches.

That is a lot of depth in the backfield clamoring for carries and the read option is typically not designed to feature a single running back, though there are exceptions (Oregon Ducks in 2012 for example). The star of the running game is more often the quarterback and Bell has shown an ability to be a playmaker. His presence in the running game, along with the incredible depth at running back, could prevent Williams from getting enough touches to validate his worthiness as an All-American next season.

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