ford Constructing A Team – Running Backs

Image via rantsports.com

As you all know by now, today’s is the first day of fall camp. And the two positions where there are probably the most question marks due to inexperience are cornerback and running back. There are going to be some battles at both of those positions between a few players. A couple weeks ago we focused on the cornerbacks (HERE). Today we’ll look at the running backs.

The RB position obviously took a strange turn this past weekend, but despite the fact Joe Mixon won’t currently be participating in activities the running back position is still very deep. I’m sure we’ll here more as camp gets going, but here is what we’ve been hearing throughout the summer:

Keith Ford – Of all the RBs on campus, Ford is the only one to have receivee any significant playing time last year. Everyone knows he had a few fumble problems at certain points in the season, but we also know Bob Stoops trusted him enough to give him some carries in the Sugar Bowl (though the dismissal of Damien Williams probably had something to do with it as well). And even though he only got three carries in that game, he ran for five yards per.

Ford is a physical back that isn’t going down with an arm tackle. The word out of summer workouts was that he is a constant worker. When a lot of guys will go half speed during drills or are just trying to get through the workouts, Ford is always giving 100%. He is a tireless worker, understands the opportunity in front of him, and is trying to take full advantage of it.

Alex Ross – Ross has tremendous size, speed, and athleticism. Unfortunately, Sooner fans didn’t get to witness much of that last season. After Ross’ temper got the better of him on the field early last year, he wasn’t really seen again. Talking to most folks, the word was Ross had a little growing up to do off the field. And talk to know anyone who knew him before he got to college, they’ll tell you Ross has always been a fierce competitor. Maybe sometimes a little too fierce.

Ross has a unique blend of size and speed, but for whatever reasons it just hasn’t shown up on the field yet. Due, in part, to his size he was known as more of a one cut back even going into this past spring. But during spring practice Ross showed off a lot more wiggle and ability to make guys miss. This will probably surprise many of you, but after a great spring there were actually folks inside that program that felt Ross may have earned the 1st team spot. However, most of what we heard about Ross in the summer was a bit up and down.

There were points during the summer when we heard he was looking tremendous and working hard. One person told us that “if he stays healthy, he’s going to eventually win that starting spot.” Obviously that’s one person’s opinion, but just an opinion nonetheless. As the summer went on we started hearing less about Ross, and the word we got is he might have taken a bit of a step back.

Joe Mixon – Mixon may not be practicing right now but he definitely put in work in the summer and impressed a lot of people. The way he was described to us during the summer was like a bigger version of Roy Finch, a much bigger version (obviously). People were clearly impressed by his explosiveness in tight spaces. And while he moves like a smaller guy, he’s a big big back listed at 6’2 211 lbs! He moves incredibly well in space and has the best hands out of all the running backs on the team.

Samaje Perine – While Mixon may have been the highest profile recruit coming in, Samaje was the name we heard perhaps the most over the summer. Mixon and Ross may be big backs, weighing in well over 200 lbs, but Samaje is a HUGE back weighing in at nearly 250 lbs! One of the things we’ve heard that surprised folks inside the program about Perine was his lateral quickness. Because he’s so big, folks just didn’t think he could move side-to-side that effortlessly.

Another underrated aspect of his game is speed. Word we got is he ran a 4.47 forty in summer testing. And while Mixon may have the best hands, we’ve heard Perine is more than capable of catching the ball out of backfield. Perine is also one┬áthe most mature freshman you’ll come across, in terms of the way he approaches each day. Everyone has been really blown away by his work ethic and daily approach to things in football, school, and life.

David Smith & Daniel Brooks – Both Smith and Brooks looked good in the spring game. And in talking to someone familiar with the RBs, we were told that both might prove to be victims of the talent ahead of them, they are hard working, talented backs that may actually be starters at other D-I programs. We love guys like Smith and Brooks. Guys who do what is asked of them, don’t necessarily get the pub, but they’ll give you everything. So we are certainly hoping they see the field some this year. Brooks is a quick cut guy with good vision who really did stand out in the spring game at times.

Depth Chart Speculation:

We will update this as we get more information coming out of fall camp, but for right now my best guess would be:

1. Keith Ford

2. a. Samaje Perine b. Alex Ross

3. Mixon – Mixon’s situation is obviously up in the air and missing a week of practice for a freshman isn’t good but this is where I would have had him even before his “situation.” This certainly isn’t because I don’t like Joe and his upside – I do. If Mixon gets a chance to for some in-game reps at the college level, and finds that comfort that he clearly had in high school, he can be a game-changer. And at that point, his reps would likely increase as they year went on. But Samaje feels like a kid who is just ready for this level right now. He feels like those big SEC backs you see come in and just know how to play fast and “heavy.” And for those guys, the transition time is a little shorter.


  • Sooner Ray

    I can not wait to see Perine truck someone on the field!

    • Doobie74OU

      I really think Ford is going to “truck” some folks but I believe Perine is going to “tractor trailer” folks like an 18 wheeler! LOL!

      • Super K

        Samashe Perine? haha

        • OohRahMama

          Samashe-mouth football.

  • Alex Hill

    I’m extremely pleased that we’ve moved away from having smaller backs and to more physical backs. This should help immensely in “grind it out” games. Plus it should really wear out defenses as the game goes on. I see no reason why we shouldn’t be running the ball 60% of the time or more. Back to that smash mouth football style where we just run it down peoples throats!!! I love that kind of football!

    • Christopher Coffman

      This is a topic I would love to see one of the Brainiacs address. During the Bradford/Jones years, it looked like OU wanted to be the forefront up-tempo, spread and air it out offense. Now it seems like they are transitioning back to a dominate the line and grind it out offense. While I like the change, I am curious what brought it about. Does it make it easier to win the Big 12? Does it make it easier to compete against SEC teams in the elite Bowl Games? Is it just the talent they were happening to get?

      • Alex Hill

        I couldn’t agree more! I would love to see why the Brainiacs think that shift happened. Personally, I think it’s because the pressure of winning any individual game is not more or less on any one person (especially how it was with Jones) The guy was throwing the ball 50-60 times a game! It’s would kind of be amazing if he didn’t make a mistake or two per game throwing that many times. This way it’s more about a solid TEAM that can handle a wider variety of situations from different types of teams thru ought an entire football season. Which is perfect for a playoff scenario where we could play someone from the SEC and handle the run and possibly run the ball on them in return or the Big 10 and do the same or handle the passing face paced spread attack of the Pac 12. Just my opinion as a fan. I’d be curious to see what The Brainiacs think. BOOMER!!!

      • http://batman-news.com thebigdroot

        OC’s would be my guess. Hype has never looked comfortable with calling the spread. Wilson was. Look at the Sugar bowl, it was the first game that looked like Hyple called his type of game and not a game plan used by the former OC.JMO

        • Sonny Schovanec

          IMO I think it was more a philosophy in not so much spread versus ground a pound big sets as much as a philosophy change in QB personnel. dual threat QB versus Pro Style QB. With the personnel change at QB ultimately it changed the overall formation emphasis and run game.

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDUvqXK4DEM DCinAZ

            Getting destroyed in the Cotton Bowl was the best thing that could’ve happened to us. It was time to wake up. Time to clean house. And time to look at things through a different perspective.

      • SoonerfanTU

        My opinion.

        1. I think the shift is due in part to the same reason OU shifted TO the spread in the first place. If you are the only team in your conference running an offense, or one of only a few, you have an advantage. Now that just about every and their dog is running the spread or some version of it (especially the “better” schools in the Big 12), I think it’s become a bit easier to defense. So what do you do? You change it up again. You catch all those other teams recruiting all those DB’s and rush DE’s, and you give them more power looks that they may or may not be equipped to stop.

        2. I’m against moving away from the spread too much, and here is why. IMO, it’s just so very very difficult to do what we did against Bama, which is nickel and dime our way down the field, all game. That is why I grade the offense out as nearly perfect in that game, b/c we weren’t scoring on a bunch of big plays, we were moving the ball down the field at 5 and 10 yards a pop. That is tough, b/c one error, penalty, dropped pass, or good defensive play, and you are behind the chains. While there are games/seasons where it might make more sense to lean on the run more, or in the 2nd half of games in which we lead, I still think it’s VERY important that we maintain the ability to drop back and throw the ball all over the place. It might be b/c we can’t run that day or season. Or maybe we fall behind in a game. Or maybe we just need to score fast at the end of a half/game.

        • Kevin Burger

          I think the coaches have come up with a good strategy to get the best of both worlds by varying the tempo of our offense. We have the tools to pound against a defense, and get the tough yards. But we also have the tools to air the ball out, and go up tempo when there’s either a personnel mismatch, or a worn down defense. Added bonus of our defense being better rested.

          • Eric Tauriainen

            Yes, I believe I’ve heard Stoops say they want to be “multiple” on offense and defense. I understood it to be just that.

        • Sonny Schovanec

          “Weren’t scoring on big plays”. Tell that too Bama. Colt had a couple of huge 30 plus catches and Saunders double move was a 40 yarder.

          • Doobie74OU

            Yeah and have to give ‘Bama defense some credit too! They are a pretty good defense and assignment sound! If you followed all the Trench Warfare that JY did on the game there were several plays such as the middle screen to Finch and a WR screen to Shepard that were fractions of an inch from going the distance. Against a lesser team there would have been a whole lot more big plays! IMO

        • jonnyBgood

          I love your #1 point. Many teams are going towards the rangy, lanky DE types that are pure speed rushers/drop zone cover guys. It seems when you look at rosters in general there aren’t near as many 300LB DLineman as there were 5-10 years ago. You talk about playing right into OUr hands! We have a big, strong, athletic OL combined with some grown-a@s RB’s. Teams will have their hands full and then some dealing with this power run game and I think it will take a while for many schools to equip themselves to defend it properly. I have never thought about it the way you put it and my eyes are now open in a new way and I thank you for that. Man this pumps me up even more for the season! On a side note, I am from Wisconsin originally and left the hospital in Milwaukee in Packer gear at birth. We moved to OK in ’78 and my dad said red or orange and I chose right (thank The Lord!) I am a Packer fan by birth and a 30+ year Sooner fan via choice. I am saying this because I love how both of my teams are starting to lean on the run more. Yes, the Packers have Rodgers but with Lacy and Starks punishing fools it just brings a whole different aspect and mindset to the team. Same way with the Sooners. Defenders will be having nightmares about having to deal with the line and once they are done with them here come the granite RB’s! Passing is all the rage but I am a firm believer that running (clock mgmt, assertion of will etc.) and a punishing Defense will win the day more than not. Sorry, I will stop now…

      • Boom

        My opinion. With Bradfore/Jones, we were two dimensional. During the Jones era, they tried to get Cam Newton but we all know that story. During the Jones era, the recruiting shift went to a dual threat QB. This approach provides options and opens both the run & pass. Stoops whats to grind out the end of games and he wasn’t able to do that during the Jones era. Stoops preaches balance attach and over the last 2 – 3 years they have recruited both the kids and coaches to do the job.

        • Ed Cotter

          You hit right there Boom. OU moved to a more controlled offense with the move to the dual threat QB, that can still sling when needed, but can still hit hyper speed when necessary.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDUvqXK4DEM DCinAZ

        I think they realized (finally) that the air raid offense has it’s limitations and it’s pretty much over for that gimmicky offense. That crappy 1 dimensional offense got stuffed by anybody with a good defense in major bowl games and natty games and that’s usually why they lost was because they couldn’t convert inside the 10 yard line (See the Florida game). Looks to me like they’re building our team to look more like the Seahawks on both sides of the ball and I’m okay with that. Good riddance, air raid.

      • Zack

        Great question. My thoughts are that they wanted to be able to beat teams in any way possible. Whether they need to get quick or just pound on guys and rely on defense. Everyone knocks Alabama and the sec for their “lack” of offense but during their run they had sophisticated offenses. Florida was very unique and bama had explosive play capability but they want to wear everyone out by winning time of possession and I think that’s what ou is trying to do.

    • Sonny Schovanec

      I would take a Q back Griffen any day. Master at running the IZ.

  • Michael Brock

    conStructing

    • Super K

      Thanks for looking out!

  • Super K

    Nothing wrong this right here. Perine getting instruction from Gundy this morning.

    • Jared William Reininger

      Gotta say I ate lunch next to Gundy the other day with a friend that knows him and I can tell you why kids want to play for him, super friendly guy but he has an intensity everytime he talks. He LOVES OU clearly, and I got that vibe that he is a very hard worker. I hope we hold onto Gundy, even as a QB, he does a good job with RBs IMO.

    • Fear The Magic

      I pity the LB who ran into that helmet.

    • EasTex

      I can’t believe my eyes!
      Perine is wearing that new speed flex helmet by Riddell.
      Good job to the guys in the equipment room.

  • Indy_sooner

    While we’re on the topic of backs, don’t sleep on Dimitri Flowers either

    • Jared William Reininger

      Yeah but he will play that FB/TE Flex position of Millard.

      • Indy_sooner

        True, he is not going to line up in the back field but I fully expect the dude to carry the rock.

      • Zack

        Does anyone know what flowers 40 time is? I think he will get more touches than we would see from Millard.

        • Doobie74OU

          I would hope so! We underused Millard IMO. I was watching the 2000 RRR game again the other day and Seth Litrell had at least 6 carries and I was like how come we never got Millard the ball that much! Hopefully Flowers gets more chances!

          • Zack

            2 players that were under utilized were Millard and finch. But I think that last year they finally figured out what they wanted from Millard but he got injured that’s why I think flowers will get more touches.

          • Doobie74OU

            HOPEFULLY AGREEING WITH YOU WHOLEHEARTEDLY!

        • Jared William Reininger

          I think we may see the same amount of touches this year, but hopefully cause we are using our TEs more. But it is possible, I think flowers sacrifices a little more strength for speed than millard did so he could be a backfield receiving threat like we saw in the Spring game, he has hands from what I have seen.

        • Doobie74OU

          I’ve seen between 4.65 and 4.73 40 yd times listed for him which is pretty good for a FB. He is listed at 6’1″ 244lbs. That makes it even more impressive what K said above about Perine who is listed at 5’11” 243lbs running a 4.47 40 time. That is crazy how athletic this backfield is going to be for years to come!

          • Zack

            I’m looking forward to it. I think perine has what it takes to become the starter by mid season if ross and ford don’t light it up. I think boulware needs to try to find an h back every year because it seems that could be the direction offenses are going and having true fullbacks may be going away to some degree for he elite programs.

    • Super K

      Yep. Flowers is guy we raved about before the spring game and before the coaches even started mentioning him. But we see him more as an H-back so didn’t really include him. This was a note from all the way back on March 13th (a month before the spring game) where we talked about Dimitri Flowers saying, ” Dimitri Flowers looks like a guy who is going to contribute right away. He was being used as the H-back and looked pretty good. Showed a lot of the same tools that Trey Millard has, which is why that was such a popular comp during Flowers’ recruitment. Not on Millard’s level of course, but he showed flashes.” Link: http://thefootballbrainiacs.com/?p=3581

      • Indy_sooner

        Thanks K. I cannot believe how deep this squad is. Every single one of the guys above would have started in division 1 squad, but at OU they split carries. Ridiculous.

    • ToatsMcGoats

      Also, Ripkowski. How’s that guy been doing?

  • Doobie74OU

    It has been said many time but this article highlights again how AWESOME a job Cale Gundy has done recruiting and coaching the RB position at OU. Super K is talking about our 5th & 6th backs that we have a hard time getting on the field are capable of being D-1 starters somewhere else! Hope Cale is a lifer at OU!

    • Sonny Schovanec

      If I were a betting man I would say Gundy stays at OU for a Loooong time. Not only is Cale’s salary competitive for a position coach but he makes a mint on summer camps. I can’t say for sure now but Cale generally organized the Summer Camps in the past. Not too mention he bleeds Crimson. Other then the millions to be made as a D1 head coach some coaches don’t want any part of that hat. Being the header is a different animal. When the phone rings it goes to the header. Something to be said about just coaching and not dealing with all the headaches associated with being the “man”.

      • Boom

        During the past year, Heupel was critizied for not being on the field helping with the QB’s. Said he could call plays from there. I kinda thought the same thing until later in the season when it dawned on me – Cale IS the QB sideline coach. If you watch him during a TO, he always talks to the QB. Being a good one himself provides the calm demenor a QB needs when things aren’t going right. Cale is a great RB coach, recruiter, but he provides flexibility within the staff.

  • Jared William Reininger

    Ford has that ” you can hit me, but I am gonna hit back,” mentality. He may go down but not without putting the hurt onto a defensive player.

    Think of this, OLine should be a damn good one, Flowers/Bell/Isaac(TE that I can’t remember his last name, I call him Iguana) should all be above average blockers, if Ford gets into the secondary, there aren’t many CBs or Safeties that are gonna be able to take him out. Same with Perine. Hit them with some speed from Ross, or Mixon (maybe) or even Smith and Brooks, a defense is going to have a tall order in keeping up, not to mention DGB if he is eligible, or some of the other massive WRs we have…..God I am salivating thinking about our offensive potential now.

    • Doobie74OU

      I agree if Perine & Ford bang away at them the whole 1st half this line can probably make holes you could drive a truck through come the 4th quarter!

    • ToatsMcGoats

      LOL! Ijalana is his last name!

    • FeedtheMonster

      Don’t forget about the Mac truck that is Ripkowski!

  • longshot Sooner

    Ford hurt people last year while carrying the rock just ask the linebacker from Tulsa …I expect a lot more of that this year he seems to be one of those guys that feels like he weighs 250 when he hits you but moves like a guy that weighs 220, mix Ross’s speed in with that and its a long day for anyone coming down hill to make a tackle….

  • SoonerfanTU

    I don’t know how Perine and Ross block, but the cool thing about having backs that size, that are more runners than FB’s, is that when we go to the diamond or any other set with 3 backs, we have the options of using a Mixon/Ford, a Flowers, and instead of another true FB, we can put another big bodied runner like Perine/Ross in there. Opens up a lot of short yardage options, I’d imagine.

  • LLAdamJ7

    Feels like Alex Ross has been at OU for a really long time. Hope he can finally succeed this year!

  • http://batman-news.com thebigdroot

    With no open post will you post any updates here? Have you heard anything from the AM practice?

  • Josh

    Not sure if there will be an Open Post today but seems fitting in a discussion of RBs to include #30 on the countdown in this segment as he wasn’t a bad one in his day… Some of y’all might remember the 1971 and 1972 Consensus All American, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, one of the All Time Sooner Greats… Mr. Hello and Goodbye… #30 Greg Pruitt
    30 Days Till Football Time in Oklahoma! Boomer Sooner!

    • Boom

      Good choice but was hoping he would share it with another AA – Kenny King who still have the longest TD catch in a SB. good stuff and we all appreciate your involvedment on the site.

      • Josh

        Absolutely Kenny King was a dang good back that gets overlooked a lot because he played with guys like Billy Sims and Marcus Allen but that guy could play!!

        • Boom

          Overstreet. Marcus was at USC but cool pic of him especially since he’s from Texas

          • Josh

            I meant when Kenny was a Raider he was in the same backfield as Marcus Allen.

          • Boom

            I knew you were a step ahead of me when I posted that. BTW, gotta love those pony shoes

          • Josh

            Absolutely love those shoes!

    • EasTex
  • Doobie74OU

    Constructing “A Team” right Super K! I think Perine could hold down Mr. T’s role!

    • ToatsMcGoats

      LAWL

  • http://batman-news.com thebigdroot

    A different perspective on the Mixon issue. A good read, great to hear the view of a parent who’s child went through something similiar.

    http://newsok.com/father-of-a-disciplined-sooner-thanks-bob-stoops/article/5108917

    • ToatsMcGoats

      I have stopped reading anything Tramel writes. But, in this case, Tramel didn’t write it, and it was probably his best article!

    • rphdenton

      thxs for posting this………

  • rphdenton

    ..fyi…………..practice video and pics started today on soonersports.com……….

    • Boom

      thank……………… you………….

      • Stephen

        …lol…

  • Kody K.

    I just hope Stoops & Co. can find meaningful playing time for all these talented backs. Kind of like Switzer did with the bevy of unstoppable fullbacks in 87 and 88…..Lydell Carr, Leon Perry, Rotnei Anderson and Kenyon Rasheed. Big 8 defenses were getting totally wrecked!

  • Shelby is a Patriot

    I know they still have to prove it on the field, but we’re stacked at RB!

    • ToatsMcGoats

      Indeed! I hate to say it, but I can see Brooks and/or Smith transferring…hope they can stick it out. They both looked promising in the spring game.

      • soonermusic

        Not too long ago we had 6 strong running backs ready to start the season and things looked impressive. A couple ended up transferring and probably wished they hadn’t, when things got thin pretty fast. I hope the “play me or trade me” attitude has been changed, and kinda think that may have been one of the focuses of the coaches at some point. But we’ll have to see.

  • Will Narramore

    I envision it as Ford and Ross splitting carries early in games with Mixon handling 3rd down opportunities since he’s probably the best pass catcher of the group. Then you bring Perine in in the 4th when the defense is tired and beaten up and let him just bully people

    • Zack

      I would have seen it maybe that way prior to mixon and his incident to me it looks like mixon will miss at least 4 games so he may fall a bit and need to count on one of the others under performing or one having to deal with the injury bug.

  • soonermusic

    The most interesting remark about Ross that I saw was when Trevor commented that on any speed drill that they do, Ross always comes in first.

    I think the folks who think we have moved or are moving away from spreading the ball around to a more “grind it out” type of offense are premature. I don’t expect to see any less throwing of the ball. The backs are bigger, but they’re just as fast, so it seems to me that it’s more a case of getting size with speed, rather than looking to change the offense. What will be added is the mobile qb who will give the defense fits, if they try to lay back in full coverage, and will make defenses have to think twice about rushing the qb, as well.

    • Zack

      I don’t think they are going to a grind it out offense. But I think they are trying to be “multiple” just like on defense. They want to have 100 ways to beat a team not just 2.
      By getting these bigger guys yet not giving up speed, they have the ability to play just about any style they need to.

  • bmrsnr

    Gundy always seems pretty high on Ross. Said the other day few people work harder in the weight room.

  • Jackson1006

    If the depth chart becomes too much and thing don’t work out, wonder if a guy like Ross would ever consider switching to LB? Certainly has all the physical traits.

  • Cory Reedy

    Let’s not forget that Saban wanted Samaje at Alabama….BADLY. Saban knows his runningbacks. That speaks volumes for the work that Cale Gundy put in.

  • blaster1371

    With the grind of a 12 game schedule and OU seeming to invest more in the run game IMO all four will see significant playing time at one point in the season.

  • Hooknladder

    Ross- Ford- Perine- Brooks IMHO