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OU Football | 2013 Spring Preview Series | Running Back & Fullback

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Oklahoma returns virtually every backfield contributor in 2013 at what should be a position of significant strength for the Sooners.

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Departures: Dominique Whaley, Danzel Williams

Additions: Keith Ford

Position No. Player | No. Player | No. Player
Running Back 26 Damien Williams | 24 Brennan Clay | 28 Alex Ross
| 22 Roy Finch
Fullback 33 Trey Millard | 48 Aaron Ripkowski | 32 Marshall Musil

Storyline: At this time last year, the running back position was a virtual unknown with Dom Whaley still working his way back from an ankle injury and a bunch of question marks behind him. With Whaley out for what would prove to be, in essence, the entire season Damien Williams stepped up to become the Sooners primary ball carrier. Following another but much less serious ankle injury to Williams, Brennan Clay came almost out of nowhere to close out the 2012 season in impressive fashion.

Heading into the spring, it appears to be a two man battle between Williams and Clay for the starting job. However, given Oklahoma's propensity to use multiple backs throughout the season whoever actually starts is almost irrelevant.

Behind those two, there may not be another player Oklahoma fans are more excited to see than former Jenks running back, Alex Ross. Currently listed at 6'1" 204 pounds, Ross has the 'track speed' you hear about and that you just don't typically find in backs his size.

All of this without even mentioning the often embattled Roy Finch, who could potentially have the light bulb click on in his final season. Or redshirt freshmen David Smith and Daniel Brooks who were both well regarded as incoming recruits.

At fullback, what else can you really say? We all know Trey Millard needs to touch the ball more and we all know the coaches are going to tell us they have every intention of making that happen. The only question is whether or not we're all foolish enough to fall for it another year. Who knows, maybe this is the year they actually make it happen but color me skeptical until we actually see something change on Saturdays.

Aside from that, the fact you could have a now former walk-on as talented as Aaron Ripkowski as your backup is borderline ridiculous.

Keith Ford will not arrive in Norman until this summer, but when he does he'll be physically ready to play from Day 1. However, with Oklahoma's depth at the running back position, barring injuries, he appears primed for a redshirt in 2013.

Battle To Watch: The easy answer here would be for the starting gig between Williams and Clay, but the more intriguing battle could be between Ross and everyone else. The talk surrounding Ross started even before he arrived on campus and it has only continued as he impressed during workouts and practices while redshirting last year. If he can live up to the billing, his talent could be too great to keep off the field.

To be fair, it's important to remember just how good Damien Williams was when healthy last year so don't read too much into our praise of Ross. By all accounts, he (Ross) is incredibly talented but he's also behind two seniors in Wililams and Clay. So it may be 2014 before Ross is truly unleashed, but regardless having this kind of depth can only be a good thing in 2013.

Overview: On paper, running back could be Oklahoma's deepest position on their entire roster. His issues aside, when you have a player as talented as Roy Finch possibly at fourth on the depth chart, you have some serious depth.

We've all heard the talk that Oklahoma could be transitioning to a more run focused offense, which if true the depth at running back would only lend credence to that theory. However much like Millard getting more touches, many of us as Oklahoma fans will need to see the change before we can believe it.

Whether or not the change actually does happen, Oklahoma should have a number of quality of options in the backfield and running behind a very experienced offensive line. The primary goal for the spring should be to (1) keep everyone as healthy as possible and (2) give guys like Ross, Smith, and Brooks a chance to see what they can do. We already know what Williams, Clay, Millard, and Finch are capable of so the spring will be much more about learning what the young guys are capable of and whether or not the coaches can find a spot for them to contribute in 2013.