NORMAN — For different reasons, Oklahoma running backs Keith Ford and Alex Ross found themselves in the coaches’ doghouse last season.
For redshirt freshman Ross, it happened quickly. In the fourth quarter of the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, Ross got his first college carry — an 8-yard run around the edge. He finished it off by picking up a personal foul penalty after swinging at a Warhawks defender at the end of the play.
Ross didn’t get another carry until the Iowa State game in mid-November.
Ford’s issue was keeping hold of the ball. He fumbled out of bounds in the Texas game, then coughed it up early in the next game against Kansas.
He didn’t get another carry until the Sugar Bowl.
With Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch gone from last year’s team, the pair each have a chance to have a big impact at running back this season. And with five-star recruit Joe Mixon still a couple of months away from arriving on campus, spring practices have been particularly important for Ford and Ross.
“I paid my dues and waited my time,” Ross said last week. “I felt like I needed time to get acclimated to everything around here.”
Ross has certainly convinced Trevor Knight, who came to OU in the same signing class as Ross.
“Nobody’s going to outwork him,” Knight said. “He’s more of a quiet guy. He’s not much of a vocal leader but he leads by example. In the weight room, he’s a beast; in any running drill, he’s going to finish first every single time.
“Getting those reps especially is helping him out a lot just getting comfortable with the offense, and when he gets his shot, he’s going to make some big plays.”
Sooner coaches have been complimentary of both.
“He’s doing a good job of running, finding holes, doing what he’s supposed to do, fewer mistakes, those kinds of things,” Sooner coach Bob Stoops said of Ross. “He’s a big powerful guy when he gets loose.”