NORMAN — Oklahoma’s running back situation took a big hit Monday with the announcement that five-star freshman Joe Mixon has been suspended for the year while he fights a misdemeanor assault charge.
The Sooners return the least backfield experience in the 16-year Bob Stoops era, but there is reason to be optimistic. Sophomore Keith Ford showed tremendous potential last season in limited action, although his chronic fumbling was a problem.
Former Jenks star Alex Ross is also a candidate to be Oklahoma’s top back. Coaches and teammates have praised his work ethic throughout strength coach Jerry Schmidt’s brutal summer regimen.
Here’s a look at the Sooners’ depth chart for running backs and fullbacks entering the 2014 season. OU opens its season at home Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech.
Ford carried the ball 23 times for 134 yards and a touchdown last season, but can he get his fumbling problem under control? If so, he’s the favorite to be the starter.
Ross received a personal foul after his first career carry in last year’s season opener and only got two more touches the rest of the season. Has he matured enough to earn a heavy load in 2014?
Brooks hasn’t seen any game action in two years on campus but showed his skills in April’s spring game. He could be a solid change-of-pace guy, and also could make an impact in the return game.
Every time they were asked about Joe Mixon this summer, OU coaches were quick to point out Perine’s impressive weight-room strength. Is that enough to get him playing time in 2014?
Like Brooks, Smith hasn’t seen any game action yet as a Sooner. Considering all the inexperience in the backfield, Smith could earn some playing time this season.
Everyone compares him to Trey Millard — and there certainly are similarities — but Flowers’ athleticism could make him even more dangerous than Millard was in the passing game.
The former walk-on earned a scholarship after the 2012 season and has been a tough, reliable piece of the Sooners’ offense.
Uhles walked on at OU after beginning his collegiate career at Pittsburg State.
By Jason Kersey