NORMAN – Let's face this fact as October begins: Oklahoma running back Dominique Whaley is no longer just a good story; he's a good player. In fact, he's probably more the latter than the former, something we're being educated about on a weekly basis.
Perhaps the first-blush association is to still call him “walk-on Dom Whaley,” but shouldn't he just be known as “Dom Whaley” after what he's shown in a month's worth of games for one of the country's best teams?
The junior has twice rushed for 100 yards in OU's four games, including Saturday's 109-yard effort in the 62-6 blowout of Ball State.
Including two more touchdowns Saturday, he now has seven for the season. That's tied for 13th nationally – and first in the Big 12.
What only Bob Stoops and the Sooners claim to have realized in the preseason is now becoming obvious to everyone: Whaley is Oklahoma's best running back, and it's not even really close.
The tradition of allowing Brennan Clay to start was noble – he seems like a good dude who works hard - but eventually Whaley's well-roundedness needed to win out. Saturday was that eventuality.
Like many others, Whaley opened my eyes in the Tulsa game. He rushed for 131 yards and scored four touchdowns, so it was only natural.
I'd seen curious characters appear on depth charts after preseason camp. Plenty of times. But, typically, those characters disappear soon after September arrives. Games have a way of weeding out cute feel-good stories. Soon enough, you've forgotten about them.
I saw that night, like you did, that this was no curious character. The only curious part was how he got to this place and role. This was still a feel-good story – but it was more. Whaley sure had the physical look and speed of a legitimate top-shelf back, despite the fact he didn't start at running back in high school or his freshman season at an NAIA school.
I said I would know by the end of the Sooners' trip to Tallahassee if he were for real, and Whaley won me over there. He rushed for 71 yards on 21 carries – nothing supernatural, by any means – but he proved he could be leaned upon for tough yards, including those late in the game, against a staunch defensive front. Whaley's late runs, aided by the offensive line, led to a field goal that sealed a big road victory.