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Oklahoma Sooners Spring Football Preview | Running Backs And Full Backs

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Keith Ford made his mark as a special teams player and is now poised to take over the workload at running back.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The area of Oklahoma's offense that was hit the hardest with graduation is the backfield. With Brennan Clay and Roy Finch off in pursuit of NFL millions, the Sooners are left to reload and prepare to attack the Big XII with a brand new stable of backs in 2014. While the competition will officially begin this spring, you can bank on it continuing through the summer and into the fall workouts.

The Incumbent - Sophomore Keith Ford (5-11/205) - The departures of Clay and Finch leaves Ford as the most experienced back on the roster. A punishing runner, Ford averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a true freshman in 2013. He also had a knack for laying the wood as a special teams player but I wouldn't expect to see that continue in 2014 as he becomes on of Oklahoma's feature backs.

The Race - Sophomore Alex Ross (6-1/201) vs. Sophomore Alex Ross (6-1/201) - You can't but think that Alex Ross' biggest obstacle has been Alex Ross. The redshirt sophomore has the size and speed to be an outstanding back at Oklahoma and, with the cupboard as empty as its been since he arrived in Norman, this is his time to shine. If he can't make headway this spring then he never will.

Name To Watch - Sophomore David Smith (5-10/199) - With just three running backs on the roster going into the spring, you're likely to hear Smith's name on occasion. Perhaps lost in the shuffle of this young group of backs, Smith was the 36th ranked running back in the country coming out of high school and the 15th ranked player in the state of Illinois.

Synopsis - There will be some big time running backs making their way on campus this summer and the'll immediately begin pushing for playing time. Every bit of progress made by Oklahoma's running backs this spring is an extra step they'll have on Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine this summer...and they'll need it.

Full Back

The fullback position took a severe hit with the graduation of Trey Millard, leaving Aaron Ripkowski as the only player on the roster with game experience. With the transition that the offense underwent there is certainly a place for blocking specialists like Ripkowski, but there will certainly be room for another guy in the same mold as Millard.

The Incumbent - Senior Aaron Ripkowski (6-1/254) - Has come a long way since walking on to the team and even broke into the scoring column last season with a three-yard touchdown reception against Iowa State. Is not doubt a block first type of guy.

Name To Watch - Freshman Dimitri Flowers (6-3/219) - There really isn't much of a position race/battle here. If there's going to be a playmaker from the fullback position then it will have to be Flowers. He's an early enrollee who will most likely use the spring to catapult himself into a starting role this fall. Ranked as the nation's number five fullback coming out of high school, he has some big shoes to fill but certainly seems capable.

Synopsis - I wouldn't expect to see much change in the way the fullback position has been used over the past four seasons. The Sooners have the same type of personnel as they have in past years even though some of the names have changed. The fact that Flowers is on campus is huge for the team as he is quite possibly the most important of the early enrollees due to the necessity of getting him on the field this fall.