NORMAN, Okla. — The running back position has been one of the most competitive and most interesting positions to watch this spring. OU has gone from a small stable of running backs to one very large one, and it will grow even larger in the fall when Adrian Peterson, the nation's No. 1 running back, rolls into Norman.
Former Sooner quarterback great Cale Gundy now coaches the Sooner running backs, and recently he talked with OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill.
JH: What did you think about the second scrimmage of the spring where it seems there were some good plays made on both sides of the ball?
CG: "I think that is what spring football is all about. I think it is all about trying a couple of new wrinkles here and there on both sides of the ball. It is giving all the young players as many reps as possible to put them in situations where we can see who is going to be able to respond, and who is going to be able to help us come two-a-days in August and September. We do a good job of that, and a lot of guys got a lot of reps. We held some guys out who we feel are far enough along that they don't need to be scrimmaging. Guys like Dan Cody, Jonathan Jackson, Mark Clayton, and during the second scrimmage KeJuan Jones, have proven what they can do. We need to have the other guys see what they can do."
JH: KeJuan has looked great this spring, but since you held him out how did you feel the other running backs played in the scrimmage?
CG: "They all competed well and I have a handful back there. I have six guys right now and we held KeJuan out during the scrimmage. He is having a whale of a spring and he has really put on some weight. He has put on eight solid pounds and putting on eight pounds is very good. His speed and quickness is better. He has game experience and he knows the pass protections, so we held him out we could give a chance to Tashard Choice, Donta Hickson, D.J. (Wolfe) and those other guys to get more reps and see what they could do. They produced well.
"I thought Tashard had a good day and I think he is going to be a good running back for us. He is really a great downhill runner. He always has his pads going forward. D.J. Wolfe had another good scrimmage. He is a young man that just amazes me coming right out of high school and playing exactly like we thought he would. We had him in camp and we watched him in high school, and he is exactly what we thought he would be. He has great feet and he has great speed into the hole. He has no fear of anybody. He is a competitor, and he is really going to be a good player for us."
JH: Considering you took an early commitment from D.J. and you knew that he would graduate early and enroll early at OU, you must have always felt that he was going to be a special player for you?
CG: "We had him in camp and when you have those young men in camp you get a chance to work with them individually so that we can see what kind of person he is and how he competes. D.J. has such great upside to him, and being able to come in and compete with older kids is amazing. He is competing as if he has been here for more than a year or two already and he makes plays. He runs the ball with power, speed and strength. He talks to people in the huddle and he is already trying to take on a leadership role, which is something that we talk to our players about all the time. I always tell the running backs that it doesn't matter who you are or what year you are in school, that anybody can be a leader. I always encourage them to go out there and take on those responsibilities. He is going to be a good player, a really good player, and he is going to be much better come two-a-days because of this experience right now."
JH: When you go into the fall can you give this many running backs reps? Or are you going to have to make a tough decision and start selecting those that will be your primary players in the fall?
CG: "That is what I am doing now and what we are doing as a coaching staff. We talk about it every week. As the weeks go by we evaluate what such-and-such is doing and where he is at. We sat in there today and watched a film and had a good discussion, and I have a pretty good idea what direction that I am headed.
"Spring is not over with as we have four good practices left. However, there are some guys who are starting to do some things and starting to prove that they are capable of playing for our football team. We are beginning to make some decisions on some guys that can win some games for us."
JH: Who has stood out to you this spring thus far?
CG: "KeJuan is the best and biggest competitor that we have on our whole team. I promise you that if you have to go to war you want that guy in your foxhole with you, because he is going to fight until the very end. He wants to win and he loves the competition. He loves for somebody to come up there and knock his head off, because I promise you he is going to come back and hunt you down and knock your head off. That is his attitude and he plays so much bigger than he is in size. He has been playing for us the last two years seeing what everybody has from different teams taking the best from the Big 12 Championship and National Championship games, and that is two of them that he has been in already. He has been going against the best defensive team in the country for the last two years in practice and one of the best blitz teams in the country, and that has improved as a football player. Those experiences have elevated him above everybody else right now."
JH: Did every running back get reps with the first unit during the second scrimmage?
CG: "I think almost everybody did, but there may have been one guy who didn't, but I am not really sure. We have to do the best we can to get everybody in. I have good kids and the running backs are all positive. They know the situation and they know some days somebody may get four snaps and somebody may get 10 snaps. They know that is the situation and they know that it is difficult to keep rotating guys in there. Sometimes drives last a little longer than the drive before, so somebody might have got 12 plays on a drive compared to the last drive when somebody got only five. Everybody has been pretty understanding up to this point, and I don't think we have had any problems. I am starting to narrow down what is going on and I think I have a pretty good idea."
JH: Do you have a depth chart at running back right now?
CG: "Not quite yet, but I am almost there in my mind. We will release it pretty soon. KeJuan is going to be up there and I think that Tashard Choice is going to be up there somewhere. Donta is in there as well, and then the young guys we will see this last week what they can do. We will see if we can give them a few more chances to see if we can solidify a good solid depth chart going into the summer."
JH: You have the Adrian Peterson factor in the fall, so what kind of opportunity will you give him when he comes into camp?
CG: "He will be given his opportunity just like everybody else. He will have to learn faster and quicker to catch up with everybody who has been here. We will wait and see and hopefully get him up here this summer, get him in the weight room, get him around the players and get him into the film room, so that we can give Adrian the opportunity to be successful. He will need that, but we will definitely give him a chance right away.
"It is not near as easy, even though he will be taller than anybody, weigh more than anybody and be faster than anybody that we have. But there is much more to it than just putting a ball in your hand and saying, 'go get it.' It will be interesting to see how that turns out."
JH: The summer has become so important for a college football player hasn't it? Even moreso than when you played?
CG: "I think it is completely different today. This is a championship program and these kids have had success and they know what they have to do to succeed on the field. We have a lot of All-American's now and a lot of players who are earning top honors in college football on both sides of the ball. So when a guy comes here he sees what a Josh Heupel had to do, what a Mark Clayton has had to do, what a Roy Williams had to do and a Rocky Calmus on defense. Those young guys see that and they say I want to get there, and that is what I have to do and that is to commit myself. That is what it takes, and if you don't do those things I don't care how gifted you are, if you don't spend that extra times you will not become the complete player."
Gundy is confident with Jones at running back
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