Picking Up the Pieces

NORMAN, Okla. -- When the 2011 season opens up, the Sooners will be without a familiar face in the backfield, a familiar face that could do it all.

Running back DeMarco Murray could blast up the gut, use his shiftiness to juke defenders on the outside, explode down the sideline, work out of the slot and even block out of the shotgun, too.

He was the prime example of a multipurpose back that could operate in almost any situation.

"You know, DeMarco was special in the sense that he could be a physical player, he could be a receiver," said running backs coach Cale Gundy. "He could do it all the time."

Now, without that luxury, the group will have to collectively pick up the slack.

And it certainly doesn't hut that the Sooners have such a wide variety of backs.

"We got Roy [Finch], who's fast, short guy, can cut back and forth," said running back Jonathon Miller. "You know, you've got Brandon Williams, fast, very fast. You got Dominique Whaley, very fast and very physical. You got Brennan [Clay]. He's very physical, and he can also catch pretty good, play the slot receiver sometimes, and we all just have different aspects that we can do. Oh yeah I would say [I'm more of a physical guy]."

Then, there's also injured running back Jermie Calhoun, who's working his way back.

"Jermie's just, I mean, he's just working out, getting better," Miller said. "He had that tear. We're all hoping he comes back well in fall camp."

Even quarterback Landry Jones commented about the variety of guys and just how crucial that is in Murray's absence.

"You know, we've got a lot of different type of backs this year," Jones said. "You know, Roy's more smaller and quicker and Brennan's kind of the same way, has a little bit more power. Jonathon Miller is one of the bigger backs. Jermie Calhoun--he's hurt right now. Brandon Williams, young dude, Dominique Whaley, [too]. So, we've got like a bunch of different backs back there and the spot's really open, so people just need to step up and start competing for it, which they are and they're doing a great job this spring."

One thing they're doing in the process of this competition is familiarizing themselves with all the different responsibilities that come with being a Sooner back.

"They're continuing to learn to do those things," Gundy said. "And there's a few guys who can do those things better than the other guys. You know, there's a couple guys that can only do certain things, so but you have to train those guys as well, even the ones who can't catch the ball as well or can't run routes as good or maybe can't pass protect as good. I mean, you got to work harder at those things."

And they are.

"Everybody's just trying to do a little bit at a time and we're just progressively getting there every day," Finch said. "And specifically things that coach wants us to get better at, you know, we just try to go out there and focus on those things."

It will most certainly pay off come fall when they try to fill the void on the field that's been left behind from a player that shattered numerous records at OU.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories