Gundy excited about his stable of running backs

Sooner running backs coach Cale Gundy breaks down the running back position and what true freshman Adrian Peterson has to do to earn playing time this season. Gundy says junior KeJuan Jones (pictured left) will sit atop the depth chart to begin two-a-days.

Running back will be one of the most watched positions when preseason drills open for the Sooners August 9. Not since Marcus Dupree arrived from Philadelphia, has their been as much interest in a Sooner freshman that is being received by Adrian Peterson.

The Sooners have seven very good running backs on their roster, and only one to three is going to play. It is up to former quarterback great and current running back great Cale Gundy to work through the roster and come up with the best combination for the Sooner varsity. And Gundy talked to about those topics last week.

JH: You are now back in the office getting ready for preseason workouts with a little less than two months of down time. How hard is it for a football coach to re-charge the batteries for each season?

CG: "It is really much easier on me in that one of the things that I really look forward to each fall in two-a-days is seeing how people have gotten better from the summer. It is seeing who has matured, who has taken that next step since we left spring ball. Males improve a great deal between the ages of 18 and 22, and sometimes they do it as a freshman and sometimes it is as a junior, you can never tell. You can have a player in spring ball that just isn't quite there yet, but he comes back for two-a-days and he is a totally different person because he has matured and become a man. I am really looking forward to two-a-days."

JH: You guys try to get away from football in the summer, but how many times a day even during your down time are you asked to talk about football or just think about football?

CG: "Everywhere you want to go people want to talk football. OU football is the biggest thing in the state here and people want to know about our program. They want to know about the recruits coming in, how the players we have here are doing. They want to know how Jason White is doing, if KeJuan is getting bigger and stronger. They want to know and they are tying to get a head start on the season, so everywhere you go people are asking. However, it is not to bad James."

JH: Is it different as a coach from when you were playing at OU?

CG: "One, I may not be able to remember that long ago. And two, we are a different club now. We are much better and we are now a championship team competing for championships. I think everybody is a little more excited about our team now than when I played."

JH: You said after spring that you would select a few running backs to get the majority of reps andget them ready for the season. With the summer behind you, who are the running backs that will get those opportunities?

CG: "Yeah, we will definitely do that when we go into fall camp. I know who is who. I know the guys that need to be redshirted and the guys that still need another year of growing up and getting physically stronger and mentally stronger. I know who we are going to win with this fall, so I have to get those guys ready."

JH: I realize that positions are won and lost during camp, but how are they going to line-up at the beginning of fall drills?

CG: "The No. 1 guy is KeJuan Jones, and he is head and shoulders above everybody else. He had a great summer and now weighs 203 pounds. He is bigger and stronger than he has ever been. Again, he is a guy that has been around here for three years and he has hit that part in his life where he has been around and he is more mature now. He knows what it takes, even though he has been successful. He is willing to put that effort in and that extra time. KeJuan is definitely going to be the main leader and everybody else is going to be chasing him.

"Right behind him you will have a young player in Tashard Choice and a guy who has been around here for a few years in Donta Hickson. Then you have D.J. Wolfe, who is a true freshman who had a great spring practice after coming in here early out of high school. Then you have Adrian Peterson, who is going to come in and we are definitely going to give him a chance. He has a long way to go, and I promise you it is not as easy as what people think."

JH: Talks about all that it takes to play running back at OU?

CG: "There is just more to it than just running the football. There is no doubt that he is physically gifted. We are looking forward to giving him that opportunity, just like we give everybody else the opportunity. Nothing is just given to anybody around here, you have to earn it. Just because somebody comes in as the top recruit in the country, or the top recruit at his position, does not mean that we here at Oklahoma are going to give him a job. We don't do that at Oklahoma. He has to earn it and prove that he can take care of the football, prove that he can handle all the protections. He has to prove that he knows when to get out in a route or when to stand back and pick people up to keep people off of our starting quarterback. It is a much faster and quicker paced game than what he just came out of."

JH: The running backs blocking ability is so important in your offense isn't it?

CG: "We are a balanced offense and we are going to throw the ball as much as we are going to run it. The quarterback is more important than any other guy on the team. You can lose a running back sometimes, or a receiver, and still be productive on offense. However, if you lose a quarterback, a lot of times you are going to have some problems. We have to keep defenders off of him and the running backs are very important in that role."

JH: I have heard you have had some running backs post amazing numbers in the weight room this summer, is that true?

CG: "I am very fortunate that I have a lot of great players who are all hard workers and they are all great kids. I don't get calls from Jerry Schmidt saying this guy or that guy is not putting forth the effort. I am very, very fortunate. They are great kids in the classroom and great kids that will represent our university well. Jacob Gutierrez and Courtney Tennial are both young players, as well as Tashard Choice, who have gotten bigger, faster and stronger. Every player that goes through our facility and who commits themselves to Coach Schmidt and his strength staff will get bigger. They will get faster and they get stronger. So, every one of our running backs have put on weight, all are quicker and they are all lean down. What those guys do over there in the weight room is amazing."

JH: Because you have so many running backs, you as a coach will have to work very hard on keeping the morale up of those players that will be down the depth chart this season won't you?

CG: "That is right. We are at the point now being one of the best teams in the country that our talent is great. We have done a great job recruiting and we are getting to the point where we are kind of stocking up talent. The best play and some of them will stick around and some will decide to go somewhere else. Some will wait their turn, and it is kind of a good situation to be in as part of a coaching staff here. That is just part of and the great teams are fortunate enough to have that. We are in that direction and in that phase right now."

JH: Will your guys play a lot on special teams this year?

CG: "It is kind of strange because a lot of times running backs are some of your best athletes. I don't have a lot that will probably be on special teams. One thing that they can or can not do usually is a deficiency on special teams. A guy like Tasard Choice is big enough, strong enough and physical enough. He can do a lot of things. Adrian Peterson is big enough and fast enough that he can do a lot of things. Courtney, who weighs 230 pounds, possibly could help us on kick-off returns. Jacob is probably too small to do anything. D. J. Wolfe could be a great one, but again you have to be careful. I don't like to throw a lot of my running backs back there because they are going to get pounded on enough as it is."

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