Dimitri Flowers wasn’t just one the best offensive weapons for Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Sooners, he was one of the most challenging players for which opposing defensive coordinators had to prepare.
Since fan-favorite J.D. Runnels (PLEASE UNBLOCK US ON TWITTER) arrived in 2002, the fullback/H-back role at Oklahoma has evolved considerably. Over the last eight seasons, Sooner fans have been spoiled with back-to-back four-year terms from Trey Millard and Dimitri Flowers. In their own unique ways, they were the kinds of players that changed the game offensively for Oklahoma. Now it’s time for a fresh face. Can redshirt freshman Jeremiah Hall fill the shoes of Flowers, just as Flowers took over after Millard? Well, Millard and Flowers were unique in their levels of versatility and football I.Q., so that’s an awful lot to ask of someone who has yet to take a snap on the big stage.
In high school, Hall was used all over the field. He showed good burst and a propensity to attack the vacant space on a defense. He also made several eye-catching receptions, many of which reminded us of plays Dimitri used to make back in the day (I know it hasn’t been that long, but that Rose Bowl feel like it happened years ago). If Hall can learn to block as well as he catches, I expect him to become the next great H-back for the Sooners.
Heading into the 2018 season, there are two players who are expected to compete for the spot: the aforementioned Hall, and redshirt senior Carson Meier. While Hall fits the mold of the Millard-Flowers body type with his 6’2”, 240-pound frame, he’s still largely inexperienced as a redshirt freshman. On the flipside, Meier is much more experienced — seeing action in all 40 games of his collegiate career (much of it on special teams) — but he also has more of a tight end’s build at 6’5” and 250 pounds. And I’m not forgetting about Brayden Willis, but it may be a bit before he makes his mark. Having said that, he’s one of the most intriguing prospects of the 2018 class.
Anyway, some fans might take Hall’s natural assumption of the Millard-Flowers role as a given, but with as much as those guys did for the offense, that’s quite a bit to ask at this stage.
As you may recall, the transition from Millard to Flowers wasn’t an immediate slam dunk. That’s not to say that Flowers did poorly, but his ascension was gradual. Back in 2014, Flowers ended up recording nine touches in five starts with no touchdowns that season, while senior Aaron Ripkowski played a vital role and received ample snaps. Rip was absolutely one of the best lead blockers you’ll ever see at the collegiate level, and his experience gave him the nod over Flowers more times than not. It mustn’t be forgotten how much of a mess Oklahoma’s QB situation was that year, so run-blocking for a guy named Samaje Perine was definitely paramount. However, it was clear that Dimitri wasn’t quite ready to play the role of do-it-all H-Back at that point. It is worth noting that Hall has a redshirt year under his belt (Flowers was a true frosh in 2014) and is entering his second spring, so that should work in his favor.
At this point in time, I expect Hall to eventually make up for a good chunk of the production and versatility lost with the departure of Dimitri Flowers, but I don’t expect it’ll come as soon as this season — or at least not by the FAU game. I sort of see 2018 playing out more like 2014 as far as the position is concerned. Meier could see the field a lot (primarily for blocking purposes) and could potentially catch some passes throughout the season. Meanwhile, Hall will be gradually integrated into the offense as the year goes along, and I think you’ll see glimpses of his potential. I think the size of his role (number of snaps, touches, etc.) could be somewhat similar to what we saw from Flowers in 2014. I do think his touches will be a bit more frequent due to the nature of the current offense under Lincoln Riley, but his role could be similar in essence. Just for the hell of it it, I’ll predict 20 total touches and three touchdowns for Hall in 2018 (Flowers had 40 and nine last season) with the expectation that the number will go up in 2019.
We can realistically expect that Hall will continue to develop and grasp the system, and as soon as he’s ready, the dynamic weapon known as the Oklahoma H-Back will live on. In the meantime, it would perhaps be wise to temper the expectations a bit. Riley’s offense demanded an awful lot of Dimitiri, and he performed all of his duties at a high level for the better part of his time in Norman. So to just expect Hall to be that dude (or even close to it) right off the bat is a bit unrealistic. In any case, his progression throughout the offseason should be one of the most important storylines leading up to Oklahoma’s Sept. 1 opener.
Just because he was so awesome, here are some Dimitri Flowers highlights to make you cry. Man, that dude could ball.
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