NORMAN — Oklahoma may have lost the steady production of running back DeMarco Murray from last season, but it returns the duo of Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.
Last season Finch emerged as the Sooners' second-leading rusher with 398 yards and two touchdowns in eight games. Clay saw limited action in nine games last season, rushing for 127 yards on just 36 carries.
Both missed time last season due to injuries. Both return this season expected to bolster a crowded backfield for the Sooners.
They can also be found frequently on Twitter and carry that relationship on the field with each other.
What is your relationship like?
Clay: That's my boy right there. Him and I are always going to go at it and compete. I think we like to definitely push each other because we pretty much are similar in skill set — he's just small and shifty and I'm more like the bigger guy. I love the boy to death. Him and I go right together.
Finch: We have a lot fun on the field together. Brennan's a great talent. We both present a lot of similar things that we can present to the field. Just competing against him has really upped my level of play.
What is it like on the field during practice together?
Clay: On the field we're pretty much boys. On the kickoff return we'll joke around a little bit, but other than that we're pretty serious besides in the film. Film room is where we go at each other.
Finch: Me and Brennan always joke on each other because sometimes I'm on the A Field and sometimes he's on the B Field, and vice versa. We watch film on each other and during film we just kind of crack jokes on each other. If he has a bad play or I have a bad play, we crack jokes on each other but it's all fun and games.
What is one thing someone doesn't know about the other?
Clay: He's a lovable person. He has so much love to share, so much love to spread. He'll tell you in a heartbeat that he loves you and he might not even know you, but he's one lovable person.
Finch: He talks way too much. Way too much. He talks too much, that's all.
Is there one habit that stands out?
Clay: He's late all the freaking time, but it's all good. That's my boy. He's always going to be there, he's always going to work hard and he loves what he does.
Finch: I'm late, but I'm not always late to everything. I got to prioritize a little better and get to my meetings more on time, but I'm working on that.
DUO THEY RESEMBLE
Siegfried and Roy
Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn were Germans who traveled thousands of miles to entertain Las Vegas audiences for three decades, becoming American citizens along the way.
OU's running back tandem — Roy Finch (Florida) and Brennan Clay (California) — traveled more than a thousand miles to be part of the Sooners' tradition.
But in this comparison, Roy is Siegfried and Brennan is Roy.
Finch has shifty moves and magic feet like Siegfried the illusionist.
Clay is the dependable back who picks up blitzes like Roy, who organized white tigers and white lions for the show.
OU RUNNING BACK DYNAMIC DUO
Billy Vessels & Buck McPhail, 1952
Clendon Thomas and Tommy McDonald. Billy Sims and Kenny King. Steve Owens and Ron Shotts. Greg Pruitt and Joe Wylie.
The Sooners have had a ton of great running back combos. But for the best ever, let's go with Vessels, the halfback, and McPhail, the fullback.
McPhail played behind the great Leon Heath in 1950, when Vessels was a sophomore star. Vessels was injured most of 1951, when McPhail averaged a stunning 8.6 yards per carry, on 101 rushes.
Finally, they were together in 1952 and responded with an historic season. Vessels rushed for 1,072 yards and won the Heisman Trophy. McPhail rushed for 1,018 yards. It is believed to have been the NCAA's only pair of running backs in which both reached 1,000 yards and one of them won the Heisman Trophy, until USC's Reggie Bush and LenDale White in 2005.
FROM THE COACH
Assistant coach Cale Gundy on OU running backs
“There's a lot of potential. There are a couple of guys that are really explosive, very dangerous. But it's not an experienced group. It's a younger group. Everybody is fighting to get reps. That's why every day after practice we're watching film, we're taking notes. If you miss a pass protection and our (quarterback) gets hit in the back, we fumble and turn it over in a key situation or he gets knocked out of the game you're going to be standing alongside me on the sidelines.”
There's talent but it's unproven. No one will carry the load. Carries will be divided. Whoever has the hot hand jumps to the front of the line. The Sooners can go with speed (Roy Finch), physicality (Jonathan Miller), a receiver out of the backfield who picks up blitzes (Brennan Clay) or a talented true freshman (Brandon Williams) who is still learning the offense.
Unit grade: B
A talented group but it's uncertain who will step up in crunch time.