OU outlook: Running back/fullback

Spring football is right around the corner so Sooners Illustrated is going to get you set with an early look at 2014 for OU.

The 2013 season is in the rear view mirror for Oklahoma. And while 2014 isn't quite here just yet, never too early to start talking how the team is shaping up.

With spring football less than two weeks away, here's an early look at how the Sooners are shaping up at all positions.

Running back

The starter:

Keith Ford. We're going to find out if he is indeed built Ford tough. OU fans had every reason to be excited when he signed last year with most understanding the 2014 season was going to be his time to shine.

That didn't mean 2013 was a waste. Got a taste of what to expect with Ford as somebody who no doubt isn't afraid to run over people. His issue was ball security, putting it on the ground too much.

He was able to make a dent with three senior backs out there with him so there's no question of his ability. Now he will be expected to do the heavy lifting.

Next in line:

Alex Ross and Joe Mixon. Everybody is ready to crown Mixon as the next big thing in Norman, but Ross is going to try to make his imprint.

Injuries and discipline issues kept Ross from making a splash, but OU running backs coach Cale Gundy said the bowl practices were huge for Ross. He said he needs to be a guy who gets consistent repetitions as he only got better with more work.

But a lot of people would be shocked if Mixon didn't end up seeing the field in 2014. The five-star prospect figures to be a perfect blend of former OU backs DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson, especially regarding Murray's versatility.

On the radar:

Samaje Perine and David Smith. It's very possible Smith never sees a carry on the field for OU, but he has kept a positive attitude and is still working hard.

Mixon was the major addition to OU's crop, but nobody is downplaying what Perine brings to the table as well. About as physically impressive a back as you're going to see coming out of high school.

Fullback

Fullback is going to be the Aaron Ripkowski show until true freshman Dimitri Flowers is able to make the adjustment. It certainly helps Flowers already being on campus, and he has been given a lot of support in making the transition.

Ripkowski will be crucial for OU's running game. And when Flowers gets going, he'll bring some versatility with his ability to catch out of the backfield.


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