With Quentin Griffin returning for his senior season, there doesn't appear to be much mystery to the Sooner F-back position this fall. Griffin is going to be the starter and that is all there is to it. Or is it that cut and dry?
OU has more depth at the F-back spot heading into the spring then at any time during the Bob Stoops era. Not only do the Sooners have depth, but they have quality depth, the kind that used to run from endzone to endzone during the Barry Switzer era.
The H-back position is a different story as the coaches are still looking for a player to emerge that is a devastating blocker, but with the ability to make some things happen with a football under his arm.
With spring practice ready to get underway on March 27th we sat down with OU Running Back Coach Cale Gundy to chat about just how deep his running back stable really is.
JH: Cale, it appears that you have a number of great running backs in your stable, do you feel that way?
CG: Yes, we do have a great stable of running backs who are very athletic, very talented, with good work ethics.
JH: It appears that Quentin will be challenged for his starting role this year, but is that really the case?
CG: Quentin has been challenged every year for his starting spot, but it has been obvious that he is the best player for the position. What people have to understand is that for a running back to play our F-back position he has to be a complete back. He not only has to be a gifted running back, but he has to be able to catch the ball. Just as importantly, he has to be able to pass protect. Quentin does all of those things for us and he is the best at all of those things for us.
Not only has Quentin been a tremendous runner for us, he has been able to function in all of our running game. Quentin can run for power, can run outside and he catches the ball very well. He also has become a very good blocker and he has become so good at it that we don't need to take him out. People don't understand either, that Quentin is one of the best athletes on our team. He is consistently running in the high 4.3's and he is the strongest running back on our team. Sometimes his running style hides the fact he has great speed.
Renaldo Works and Jerad Estus are very good football players and they are improving every practice. However, they still haven't proven they are the complete football player that we need at the F-back. Now, they might this spring. Everything might come together for them this spring and they may force us to alternate some at the F-back position. However, they will have to show us they can do all the things that Quentin can do. Plus, there will be more opportunities for the F-backs this season, because Coach (Kevin) Wilson likes to use two tailback types in the backfield at the same time. When we go to that formation that will also create more playing time for our running backs.
JH: You also have two rookie running backs that you are excited about don't you?
CG: Yes, we sure do. Donta Hickson and KeJuan Jones are two of the most talented young backs we have had at Oklahoma since I have been here. They have so much to learn, but you can't miss the fact they have great talent.
JH: Are they different styles, or very similar?
CG: No, they are different. Donta is almost 200 pounds and more of a true tailback type. He is a slasher, who is very powerful going through the line. He is a 4.47 guy that can make people miss, but he is very good at hitting a seam or going off tackle. He also has the best hands on our team. KeJuan may be the most explosive running back we have on the team. He is a 4.45 guy and he can get to his top speed faster than any other player we have, expect maybe for Estus. Actually, I am not sure Estus can explode to his top speed as well as KeJuan. This makes KeJuan very explosive and with his ability to cut on a dime, he is very tough for a defense to handle. Carrying the football is a tremendous plus for KeJuan and if he can master the other aspects of the game that we need for our F-backs, he is going to be a great football player for us. We have two great F-backs and they are going to be fun to watch over the next few years.
JH: What about your H-backs?
CG: We return our starting H-back from a year ago in Chris Toney. Chris did a fine job for us last year and has worked hard this offseason. He has added another seven or eight pounds on his frame and it is good weight. He is a stronger football player heading into the spring. This is a position where Brian Odom may settle into as well. He is working on getting bigger and this may be a good fit for him. This position is changing a little bit, as it will require a very physical player as a lead blocker, who can carry the ball on occasion and catch the ball out of the backfield. True freshman J.D. Runnells will be the mix at the F-back position when he reports in the fall.
JH: What about Larry Pinson?
CG: Larry is coming off of knee surgery and he probably won't be available for spring football. He is a tremendous athlete and probably the best we have at that position. The question for him is whether he can make the transition from tailback to fullback? He has never been an H-back before and we will have to wait and see if he has the desire to become an H-back. He certainly has the talent to do it.
Spring Preview: Can anyone unseat "Q"?
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