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Looking Ahead: Running Backs

Damien Williams will look to have an even bigger season in his senior campaign.

After a crowded group competed for the starting job a year ago, it was the JUCO transfer, Damien Williams who emerged as the main ball-carrier in the Sooners offense. After losing only Dom Whaley to graduation, the running backs core will once again be stacked with quality depth.

DAMIEN WILLIAMS: One of the biggest surprises last season was the emergence of newcomer, Damien Williams in the running game. A JUCO transfer from Arizona Western College, Williams rushed for 946 yards on 176 carries (5.3 yard avg.) and 12 total touchdowns (11 rushing) in his first season at Oklahoma. Even though he was used in a back-up role the first two-weeks of the season, it was clear after the opening game against UTEP that he was the best back on the roster. Despite not starting in his first game as a Sooner, Williams led the team in rushing with 104 yards on 10 carries, including a 65-yard touchdown that clinched the game. He finally got his first start in the Kansas State game, and started every game for the rest of the season, except the Iowa State where he was limited due to an ankle injury. With the Sooners frequently utilizing their running backs as receiving threats, Williams proved to be a reliable for option for Landry Jones as well. Williams had 34 receptions for 320 yards and one touchdown on the year. He will enter camp as the starter at running camp, and it is highly likely that he will emerge as the starter. Williams will be a senior.

BRENNAN CLAY: A guy that had been pretty much written off by everyone coming into the season, ended up taking advantage of every opportunity that was given to him. Before the opening game against UTEP, Clay was pegged by most as No. 4 on the depth chart. It seemed his window had passed, and that it was going to be tough for him to see the field. But as the season went along, Clay continually produced when his number was called. There was no better instance of this, than in the Iowa State game where he got his first start of the season. With Damien Williams hampered by an ankle injury, Clay saw the bulk of the carries against the Cyclones, and had a career day. Clay rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown in a 35-20 road win for the Sooners. This season, Clay will see carries early in the year, but it’s possible that he will be a victim of the talent that lurks behind him. One thing that cannot be taken away from him, is the leadership impact he has. Clay is a guy you love to have on your team, and even if his number of carries fall off, his leadership certainly will not. He will be a senior this season.

ROY FINCH: One of the most frequently asked questions this season was simply, when will Roy Finch see more carries? Entering the season, it was thought that he would see carries in a back-up role and be the “Homerun threat” that he had proven to be in the past. But as the year went along, Finch was absent from the Oklahoma offense. Other than a few carries, Finch was left to make his impact in the kick return game. The reasons why he never saw the field are still unclear, but many speculations have surfaced. However, what is clear is the threat he poses every time he touches the ball. This season, his role will once again be a big unknown. Expect Finch to be a starter at kick returner once again, but as of now, it’s hard to see him getting a large number of carries this season. Finch will be a senior this season.

EMERGING: ALEX ROSS- After red-shirting last season, Alex Ross drew plenty of high praises from the coaching staff. Early in the season, running backs coach, Cale Gundy even went as far as comparing him to former sooner great, Mike Gaddis. With a rare blend of both speed and size, it’s very realistic that Ross could see a significant amount of carries this season. Like any newcomer, however, he will have to show that he can consistently pass-block. Expect Ross to see carries this season, and don’t be surprised if he ends up being a big part of the offense.

Another running back who sat out last year due to a red-shirt was David Smith. A year ago, Smith was three-star prospect from Midlothian. Illinois. He received praises from players on the defensive side of the ball, but with a crowded group of talented running backs in front of him, Smith will have to wait at least until next year to see a significant number of carries.

INCOMING FRESHMAN: KEITH FORD- The gem of the 2013 class for the Sooners, Keith Ford could very well be the next great running back to come through Oklahoma. After rushing for 1,868 yards and 24 touchdowns in his senior season at Cypress Ranch, Ford was selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game. There’s no doubt that he has the talent to play right away, but he will have to beat out several talented veterans in from of him. Ford is rated as a four-star and the fourth best running back in the country by 247Sports.

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