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April 14, 2011With so many receivers out of action heading into the Red & White Game on Saturday, the attention will focus squarely on the OU running backs, and maybe that's okay.
After losing over 70 percent of their rushing yardage from a year ago, Sooner fans are most interested in who will step up to take over those duties in 2011. Judging by the buzz surrounding running back performances through the first 12 practices, it would appear Jonathan Miller is the one to watch on Saturday.
"It's very important to me," said Miller of the finale. "I've been here for two years and I redshirted last year and I really want to see what I'm capable of and I want to show other people what I'm capable of."
With every practice and major scrimmage closed at Oklahoma, we're left with Saturday to judge which back looks best.
Miller will certainly get a lot of carries as he is the only scholarship running back on the White team. But Dominique Whaley has been impressive for a walk-on.
But for Miller, it will be his first chance to shine after he redshirted last season after a severe knee injury ended his true freshmen season prematurely.
"I'm very excited," he said. "I've got a lot of people coming up that hasn't seen me in a while and they'll be there to watch the game so I wanna make big plays."
Miller has reportedly had his fair share of big plays, but the player other players were talking about earlier this week, was true freshmen Brandon Williams.
"Brandon Williams is a hoss," said offensive guard Gabe Ikard. "He is gonna be scary. He is a man. He's kind of like a mix between Adrian Peterson and Allen Patrick. That's how I like to describe him."
It will also be a chance for fans to get a glimpse of Roy Finch's return from a stress fracture. An injury which held him out of the Big 12 Championship and Fiesta Bowl. But Brennan Clay will also have a chance to show his stuff as well.
It's not quite like the days of Jason White and Nate Hybl. Or even the Jason White/Brent Rawls battles of the past. But this spring there will be plenty to see from two players battling for the backup quarterback job.
Landry Jones is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma. But as 2009 reminds us, OU is only one play away from having their entire offense change in an instant. That's where Drew Allen and Blake Bell come in.
Allen will be in charge of the Red team, pretty much by himself. He is flanked by a couple of walk-ons and true freshmen Kendal Thompson. But according to those in the know, Thompson hasn't taken a single snap in a major scrimmage up to this point. He just doesn't know what to do at this point.
That leaves a full day of passes, handoffs, rollouts and decision making to evaluate Allen.
On the other side, Bell should see plenty of time as Landry Jones has little to prove in the Red & White Game.
Asked if he thought he might see limited action on Saturday, Jones wasn't hoping for a shortened day.
"It's definitely gonna be boring standing on the sideline," said Jones. "That's not what you want to do."
But as careful as this staff is, Jones won't be in there from start to finish. Bell should get plenty of snaps to make a lasting impression.
"I'm excited. I'm excited just to get out there and show what I've got," said Bell. "Not even that, but just to get out there and have fun with it. I felt like I haven't gotten a live game or scrimmage since my senior year in high school. I'm excited."
Fans are certainly intrigued by Bell, but onlookers say Allen has been very impressive at times during the spring. It's no certainty Bell enters the fall as the backup to Jones. Even though fans want might worry that Bell would look for greener pastures should he not win a backup job, the native Kansan, says he couldn't be happier at OU.
"I'm handling it fine. You always have the people saying, 'are you not happy here?' But I know it's a learning process and I'm excited to be here and I'm excited to learn from a guy like Landry that's been here and he's getting better every day and he's going to keep getting better," said Bell. "I'm just excited to be behind him and learn from him too."
With so much known on the offense, it will be nice to see the running backs and backup quarterback derby provide some sense of intrigue.