NORMAN — The leading rusher in Oklahoma's spring game Saturday afternoon wasn't Roy Finch or Brennan Clay, last year's highly touted freshmen running backs. It wasn't Brandon Williams, the highly touted incoming freshman who enrolled early.
Junior Dominique Whaley, a walk-on transfer from Langston, rushed for 65 yards on 10 carries.
It wasn't one of those freak spring situations where the walk-on doesn't see the field the following fall. Coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said Whaley is in the mix for playing time.
"He's right there with those guys," Stoops said. "Even (dating back to) a year ago he's done well. He's a guy who is definitely in that competition."
From a military family, constantly moving around, Whaley played his final two high school years at Lawton MacArthur.
Langston and Emporia State were the only two schools to recruit him.
After his freshman year at Langston, Whaley left for personal reasons. He sat out one semester and walked on at OU last spring.
Whaley admits he was hoping to just make OU's roster last spring. Now he's driven to carve out a role in what Stoops said will be a "running back by committee."
"I feel the position is wide open," Whaley said. "They're giving all of us plenty of opportunities. I feel I do have a chance to compete and maybe win the job."
The other back that stood out Saturday was Clay, who rushed for 59 yards on 12 carries. Finch (20 yards on eight carries) and Williams (13 yards on seven carries) never got untracked.
In The Oklahoman's online poll, Williams easily received the most votes for the player OU fans most wanted to see. But it was Whaley, a relative unknown, who made a strong impression on a crowd of 25,000.
"You guys didn't get to see much of him last spring," Heupel said. "But when he had an opportunity last spring in scrimmages he did a really good job. For him to play as well as he has this spring isn't surprising to anyone in our program."
In a spring game dominated by the defenses, the longest offensive play was Whaley's 45-yard run early in the second quarter. Whaley, 5-foot-10, 197 pounds, burst into the open, shed a couple of tackles and almost took it the distance.
"My first thought was, 'Man, I should have scored,'" Whaley said. "I guess that's how I think. Have to score every play. Can't waste an opportunity."