There were many heroes last Saturday against the Texas Longhorns and all were rewarded with game balls afterwards but one guy that had very little said about him was Aaron Ripkowski. The 6-1, 260 pound sophomore from Dayton, TX came in and played well as he continuously opened holes for the “BellDozer” package which scored four touchdowns on the day. Offensive Line Coach Bruce Kittle certainly noticed and after practice yesterday, had this to say about the man they simply call “RIP.”
“He brings a couple of things to the table for us and he came from a high school that runs the spread so he is a fullback/tight-end kind of guy and we were very fortunate to find him,” said Kittle. “He is obviously a great physical specimen and I think is kind of a traditional Big 10 type of guy and he brings a mental and physical toughness that has really strengthened our team.
“He fits into everything we have asked him to do and ‘Rip’ is a very smart football player but most importantly, he is a very physical guy and with us trying to be a physical team, he sets the tone for us. He runs both the “CAT” set and the “WILD” set in our “BellDozer” package and he and Trey (Millard) are the lead guys in those packages and there are some fairly complicated reads for both of them to learn and understand in those packages and they both execute them really well. I could put a highlight clip together of guys that he has nearly put in the hospital as hard as he hits and I know that so far he has KO’d two guys completely and there is a guy from Texas that still has a headache I am sure so he has done a great job for us.”
With OU having so many fullbacks on the roster, it allows the offensive coaches to use them in many different ways and Kittle says that the Sooners are starting to excel when they have all three of the fullbacks in the game.
“They are all terrific for us and we use them in our “Sooner” package and that is where we pull the tight- end off and use the three fullbacks and that has been successful for us so it’s kind of a slide of mirrors for us because we can do so many things out of that. Jaydan Bird has done a terrific job for us as well in those packages and I certainly don’t want to leave him out either.”
With the Sooners being a strong tight-end team since Coach Stoops has been at the helm, it was a foregone conclusion that OU would be a force at that position but with the graduation of two last year and the Sooners bringing in some young and unproven talent, Coach Stoops and the rest of the coaching staff have come up with the “Sooner” package and various other formations to take advantage the three fullbacks on the roster.
“If you look around our league and a few others, there aren’t many teams that even play with a tight end anymore because they are all complete spread with four wides and they might go to the ’20 package’ but the days of two backs and two tight ends are slowly fading away,” said Kittle. “We did it some last year but we haven’t done it much this year. We have the talent and the personnel to go big simply because it puts defenses in situations that they don’t see very often and like I said, we have the athletes to do it and it’s quite an advantage.”
When the Sooners want to go to the “heavy” set offensively, they sometimes use a tackle and move them to tight-end so in essence, there are three tackles on the field at the same time and Kittle says that they have done it some this year with great success.
“Some people thought that we just put that formation in for Texas but we have run it at other times this year before we played in the Cotton Bowl,” said Kittle. “All of our tackles are 310 or 315 pounds and I don’t know if you guys (the media) caught it but on that first drive against Texas, Bronson (Irwin) got hurt so Daryl Williams had to kick in at guard and we already use three tackles in that set so Lane (Johnson) had to move over to the other side and I had to flip Tyrus (Thompson) to the other tight end spot so he is kind of the back-up tight end when we need him but Lane Johnson is typically the tight end on the right side for us.”
And what were Kittle’s thoughts on how his O-Line graded out?
“As a coach, we get a little picky on some things but I thought overall, they were right in that ‘B’ range and they did a nice job and there are always things you can go out and clean up and when you win like we did last Saturday, you can kind of create an awareness on some things when you might not be able to in close game at other times.”
With the Sooner O-Line playing well and opening holes, it’s only natural that one would see that the running backs also had great success.
“Our backs did a terrific job against Texas,” said Kittle. Damien (Williams), Brennan (Clay) and Dom (Whaley) all ran great and fortunately, we were able to execute and although we weren’t as clean as I would have liked for them to be, we played really hard and played through the whistle.
Oklahoma came out of the Texas game with no significant injuries on the offensive line and Coach Kittle said that Bronson Irwin’s injury was minor as he was just stepped on and he returned so the Sooners should be in good shape heading into this Saturday’s game against the Kansas Jayhawks.