Much of the focus this spring from Sooner fans will be on the Sooners quarterback situation, but just as pressing to the OU football coaches will be who takes over for All-American running back Quentin Griffin.
Sophomore KeJuan Jones received major playing time a year ago, subbing for ‘Q' when the Sooners went to the I-formation. Jones was outstanding out of the I-formation rushing for over 670 yards and playing a big role in the Sooners success last season.
However, senior Renaldo Works once again demonstrated big play potential with his magical run through the Alabama defense to rally to the Sooners to victory. Once again the coaches didn't play Works a great deal following that game, which is still puzzling to many folks that cover the football team.
Donta Hickson and Jerad Estus also figure into the running back race and the coaches are very curious just how good Hickson is. Hickson really impressed the Sooner coaches during bowl practice and he will get a very good shot to show what he can do.
However, the job appears to be KeJuan's if he can prove that he can handle it. If he wins that job the odds are the coaches will find another running back to run the I-formation set, but all that is still to be determined. Yesterday after a weight lifting session, I had a chance to talk with Jones for a few minutes to find out just how confident he is that he will be the guy to take over for ‘Q'.
JH: How are workouts going for you?
KJ: They have been going great. I have put on about five pounds and I would like to put on another five before spring starts, but if I don't it is really isn't that big a deal. I know that I am stronger in both my upper and lower body and I am maintaining my speed. In fact, I think I have improved my speed. I am trying to follow the leadership that ‘Q' provided of us last year in the weight room, but I am not in his class or even close at this point.
JH: You worked primarily out of the tailback slot, so do you feel you can win the one-back or ‘F-back' position?
KJ: Oh sure, I don't think that is going to be any problem. I still worked at the ‘F' back during practice last year and I got a lot of work there during our bowl prep. At tailback, I concentrated on being a downhill runner and running tough inside. That is what Coach (Cale) Gundy wanted me to do and that is what I did. I didn't try to play too fancy, I just hit the hole as hard as I could, tried to run through a few tackles, and tried to pick up as much yardage as I could. At the ‘F' I will still need to run tough, but I will have to show more skills to get the job done. I need to be more elusive, a better blocker and pass protector and I need to catch the football more.
JH: At Jenks High School you were a very elusive running back and showed great hands. Do you feel you still have those skills now that you have become a power back at OU?
KJ: I haven't forgotten how to juke people and I know that I can catch the ball very well. I wasn't asked to juke people last year. The coaches wanted me to get physical and get after people and that is what I did. I have been working on my moves and I will show everybody that I can break guy's ankles with some of the moves that I have. I will do well catching the ball out of the backfield as well. I think that I can be a complete running back at OU because I am not going to forget how to run out of the I-formation either. I am just looking forward to getting out there in the spring and showing off all the things I can do at running back."
JH: What do you think of your competition at RB?
KJ: Man, we are blessed with a bunch of great running backs that can win football games for us. I love to watch Renaldo, because he works incredibly hard and is always the next play away from making a big play. Donta is a physical, slashing running back that is almost impossible to tackle and Jerad may be the fastest player on our football team. "Q' is a great player and we will miss him, but I think we will be able to get the job done next year.
Can Kejuan replace Q?
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