The Oklahoma Sooners football program is still riding the momentum from a victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Allstate Sugar Bowl earlier this year. This Oklahoma team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Coach Bob Stoops has to like his chances of contending for a Big 12 championship.
To do that, the Sooners will need an inexperienced group of running backs to step up their game.
Oklahoma will need to replace its top three rushers from last season. Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch accounted for 62 percent of the carries last season. Stoops relied on senior leadership in the backfield to compensate for the erratic quarterback play. This season, he won’t have that luxury.
The good news is the current crop of backs is probably more talented than last year’s group. Sophomore Keith Ford leads a young but athletic running back stable. Ford is a punishing runner, using his 5-foot-11 205-pound frame to run between the tackles. He would have seen more playing time last year had he been able to hang onto the football. Fumbling issues relegated Ford to the sidelines, where he spent most of his freshman season as a spectator. If Ford can overcome the fumbling problem he can become the next great Oklahoma running back.
If he can’t, there is still reason for optimism. Alex Ross is a former four-star recruit who saw time on special teams in 2013. At 6-foot-1, 221-pounds, Ross is a battering ram with speed. He was the Oklahoma 6A state champion in the 200-meter dash in 2011. The redshirt sophomore enters his third year in the program and is ready to contribute.
Perhaps the player Oklahoma fans are most excited to see this fall hasn’t arrived on campus yet. Freshman Joe Mixon comes to Norman with heady credentials. A five-star recruit from California, Mixon is the top-rated high school running back in the country by Rivals and 247Sports. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound Mixon rushed for 1,700 yards and 23 touchdowns his senior year. He will throw his hat into the mix this summer, giving the Sooners an embarrassment of riches in the backfield.
Oklahoma may have found its quarterback in Trevor Knight late last season. Even so, he has just five collegiate starts under his belt. The best thing the coaches can do for him is to establish a strong run game and take the pressure off of Knight until he becomes more settled under center.
The future looks bright for Oklahoma, thanks to a young but exciting group of running backs ready to make their mark on the Big 12.