Player in Focus: Keith Ford

Sooners' top running back expected to return after month-long absence

There was a reason that Keith Ford’s name was listed as the starting running back for Oklahoma when the season started.

He’s the best of the three, although that gap might have shrunk in his absence.

Ford was a touchdown machine when healthy, averaging two touchdowns and 98 yards of offense during the first three games of the season. He has missed that past four games with a foot injury.

Now, he’s expected to be back. He might not be back at the top of the depth chart just yet, but he’ll be back on the field against Iowa State.

“He’s anxious to get out there,” Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “He’s been pushing it. Our medical staff does a great job of bringing those guys along at the right pace. Obviously, if he’s cleared, then that means he’s 100 percent and ready to play.”

Ford practiced for the first time Monday, and if he had the qualifying number of snaps, Ford would be leading the Big 12 in points per game.

“If he’s back to full speed, Keith’s a guy that showed early on that he can make some big plays,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He can help that way.”

Everything with the Sooners’ offense can change with a healthy Ford.

He was the second-leading receiver on the team through the first three games, providing not only a valve out of the backfield but also a running back who can run routes as a receiver.

Ford also helps the Sooners’ offense in ways not on the stat sheet. Ford is a third-down back because he can catch and also because he can block.

“Those guys have to be part of what you are doing if they aren’t bringing any pressure,” Heupel said. “They have to be involved with blitz pick up. Early in the year, you saw him be explosive with the ball in his hands.

“Certainly, we need that.”

Ford gives Oklahoma (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) the ability to bootleg and get quarterback Trevor Knight out of the pocket. While running backs Samaje Perine and Alex Ross have proven capable in Ford’s absence, there was always a reason that Ford became the starter in the preseason.

He’s the most complete back of the group.

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