It's high time we got back to the matter at hand and that's football, not realignment. The season is fast approaching, we're the #1 team in the country, and all we can talk about is stuff happening off the field. So I'd like to get this train back on its tracks and start by talking about one of Sooner Nation's favorite offensive formations and yet one most feel was under utilized. We can only hope that under the direction of new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, that we'll get to see more of this highly effective formation.
As most Sooner fans are well aware, should Heupel see fit to frequently use the 'Diamond' there will be no shortage of candidates. Three weeks prior to kickoff against Tulsa OU may be without a running back who is expected to get the lion's share of the carries, but they are not lacking for exceptional talent in their backfield. With no less than five legitimate candidates for playing time, the offensive coaches will have a fairly significant problem on their hands finding enough carries to keep them all relatively happy. A good problem to have no doubt, but still a problem. So part of the beauty with respect to the 'Diamond' formation is that it has proven to be highly effective while at the same time allowing multiple backs an opportunity on the field at the same time.
With so many options, I can only imagine there are countless opinions out there as to who OU fans would like to see fill out the formation. I know who I'd like to see, but I'm also always open and interested to hear what others may be thinking.
First, let's get one thing out of the way. Saying "I'd prefer Player X, Y, Z" doesn't mean they are the only three guys to play in the 'Diamond.' It's obviously a multiple back set and as such, multiple guys are going to have an opportunity. So while I have a preference of who I'd like to see, I think each guy brings something unique in their own way. So, in short, there probably isn't a true "right answer." However, that doesn't mean there isn't a combo that can be more effective than others and that's what this is really about. What combo do you think will be the most effective?
I think most everyone here is familiar with the candidates already and if not has surely done the smart thing and purchased their very own copy of our OU preview magazine where we broke down, in detail, the running backs (and every other position). Excuse the shameless plug. So I won't waste your time telling you things you already know. I'll start with the players, in order of my preference, and talk about why I think what I do. We'll talk about the rest of the guys as well, because like I said I think they all get their chance at some point.
The Big Three
The guy I'll bring up first and who is as the top of my list may or may not surprise you. Trey Millard is that guy in my opinion. I say that because I think the most effective combination of guys in the 'Diamond' has to include Millard. Doesn't mean, at times, I wouldn't like to see three pure RBs back there but in my mind Millard is an essential piece to the puzzle. Not just because he's a devastating lead blocker, but also because he can also be a very effective ball carrier and capable of catching passes out of the backfield. The guy can do just about everything and for that reason, he's an absolute must in any combination for this OU fan.
My second guy is Roy Finch. Finch was a big part of the formation's success last year now with a year's worth of experience under his belt, there is no reason to think he can't be even better this year. Finch is without a doubt the best back in Norman at making defenders miss in the open field. He has moves on top of moves which allows him to make something out of nothing should the play break down. Along with all of his moves, he also has the top end speed to turn a normal five yard carry into a 75-yard touchdown run. The only perceived negative with Finch is his size, but he proved last year that wasn't going to be an issue. Finch is not afraid to lower his head and make the tough runs into the heart of the defense and also proved to be a much better blocker out of the 'Diamond' than anyone probably expected. Like for instance this block below which was just one of several instances where the little man was a lead blocker, got his man to the ground, and in this instance lead directly to a Demarco Murray TD run.
My last choice to fill out the 'Diamond' is true freshman and potential superstar Brandon Williams. Despite the wishful reports from the haters down in Austin, recent word out of Norman is that Williams is beginning to set himself apart from his fellow backfield mates. He just has that indescribable "it" factor and his early enrollment this spring has played a big part in his development and quest to play as a true frosh. Williams is the embodiment of a 'home run threat' and can truly take it to the house any time he touches the ball. The threat he would bring in this formation with guys like Finch, Millard, and guys like Broyles and Stills out at WR would be virtually indefensible in my opinion. All he needs is the slightest of seams and he's gone.
The Rest of the Field
* Brennan Clay - I went on the record in our bold predictions story that I thought Clay would lead the team in carries this season. So this may seem like I'm already hedging my bet, but if this team can run the ball like they need to in order to win #8 I think Clay can still accomplish that even if he's not in the top three of the 'Diamond' formation. Along with Williams, Clay has drawn the most praise during summer practices and primarily for not being afraid to get the tough inside yards. In addition, I believe Clay to be the best receiver out of all the RBs and think OU will use him in the pass game much the same way they did Murray last year. I still think Clay is going to play a big role in OU's success this year and I'd have no issue with him being in the top three, but for me I think he's just barely on the outside looking in.
* Jonathan Miller - Miller was believed to be the early leader for the "starting" role, but may have slid back a bit due to a concussion he suffered a week or so ago in practice. It is unfortunate for a young man who has struggled to find playing time thus far and now appears to be dealing with another injury. The Sooner coaches will not take any chances putting Miller in there too early, so it could develop into a situation where he might not be available early this season. I have no information specific to that actually happening, but as we all know there is no real time table with respect to recovery time and concussions.
* Jermie Calhoun - I'd be hard pressed to believe that there is an OU fan who doesn't know the story with Calhoun. A former five star recruit whose success was virtually guaranteed before his arrival in Norman, he has yet to get anywhere near the (unfair?) expectations placed upon him coming out of high school. Calhoun had major knee surgery last year and many thought (myself included) that he likely wouldn't be a factor this season. However, he has proven all this doubters wrong and worked his way back much quicker than originally expected. He appears to be almost near 100% and according to reports from OU's super secret scrimmage that took place Saturday morning, definitely had the best day of all the RBs. Aside from Millard, Calhoun is the biggest back on the roster and could make a nice battering-ram type RB in goal line situations. I know there are a bunch of OU fans (again, myself included) out there rooting for the kid to finally cash in on all that potential we heard about several years ago.
* Dominique Whaley - I hesitated to include Whaley, mainly because of my own personal belief with respect to his chances for real playing time, but the kid continues to receive praise from OU coaches for his work during practice. Obviously the coaches know much more about the team than I do, but they also have a pretty clear track record of making these kind of comments to motivate other guys on the team. So while I may take their comments with a massive grain of salt, the fact remains he name continues to come up when they talk about guys performing well in practice. Whaley has ability or he wouldn't be at OU, so it's meant as no disrespect to the kid on my part, but if we're relying on a walk-on RB at any point this year I think we can pretty much kiss our championship hopes goodbye.
So that's it people. That's who I would like to see get a majority of the snaps in the 'Diamond', but I want to hear from you and who you'd like to see. There are obviously several different possible combos and while I feel like my choice my seem the most obvious, I also know there are a lot of other OU fans out there who may disagree. I don't think I'm alone in my belief that this formation could have been used much more than it was last year either. So in addition to who you want to see back there, do you think Heupel will use it more than Wilson did? Comments, here we come!