The Oklahoma Sooners didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher last season, but they return four senior running backs in 2013, with halfbacks Brennan Clay and Roy Finch, fullback Trey Millard and last year’s leading rusher, halfback Damien Williams, ready to line up in the backfield once again.
With no shortage of options, the Sooners are expected to improve their ground game behind starting tailback Williams, who tallied 946 yards on 176 carries in his first year at OU, tallying 11 touchdowns and averaging 5.4 yards per attempt.
The former junior college standout had to adjust to life in Division-I college football, but he showed more consistency over the last four games of the 2012 season than he had all year, surpassing 90 yards rushing three times, including 18 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown in a 24-17 win over the TCU Horned Frogs in the regular season finale on Dec. 1.
Williams’s best performance, however, came when he recorded 167 yards on 22 attempts — including a 95-yard touchdown scamper — in a 63-21 drubbing of the Big 12 conference rival Texas Longhorns on Oct. 13.
“All those guys need touches because they’ve played effectively,” Sooners co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said of his quartet of veteran running backs during Oklahoma’s media access day on Saturday. “They’re experienced. They have played explosively, create big plays for us. Is there a guy that may end up carrying it 20-25 times a game? Might be. It’s how those guys separate themselves during fall camp and throughout the season.”
Williams is the most likely choice to carry the ball 20-25 times a game, and if he does and is able to maintain the same level of play that he did over the final month of the 2012 campaign, the Sooners will contend for another Big 12 championship and possibly even make a run at a national championship.
But Oklahoma certainly has all the tools to provide the 5-foot-11, 214-pounder with plenty of rest when he needs it. If they so choose, they will be able to rotate backs in and out throughout games, lessening the wear-and-tear on each and saving their horses (i.e., Williams and Clay, the latter of whom had 93 carries for 555 yards and six touchdowns) for end-of-game situations.
Junior quarterback Blake Bell gives the Sooners an added wrinkle, as he is a dual-threat QB who is capable of further decreasing the need for anyone to gain 1,000 yards on the ground. As a backup to Landry Jones last season, Bell carried the ball 60 times for 201 yards and 11 TDs.
Williams should be prepared for more snaps, though, and Oklahoma is certainly ready to return to the forefront of college football.