Breaking Down the Buzz: Oklahoma

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

Oklahoma fans think running back Alex Ross could emerge as a star in 2014.  (USATSI)
Oklahoma fans think running back Alex Ross could emerge as a star in 2014. (USATSI)

Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Eye on College Football examines what current hot topic the fans of one BCS team are obsessing over -- rationally or not. Today's team: the Oklahoma Sooners .

What they're talking about is … the depth chart, specifically the running back position. With four spring practice sessions in the books, Oklahoma fans are in full depth chart mode. The message boards over at 247Sports' OUInsider are filled with chatter from the daily practice reports and everyone seems to have identified a player ready to break out in 2014.

Oklahoma graduated its top three running backs from a season ago along with fullback Trey Millard. The lack of certainty could be a reason for fan concern, but the depth chart is loaded with young talent competing for snaps in 2014. Keith Ford has the most experience of the group, with 134 yards on 23 carries as a freshman in 2013, but the rotation is not expected to by solidified until five-star running back Joe Mixon (the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2014 recruiting class) arrives on campus.

What they're saying is … Alex Ross' time is now. Mixon is arguably the hottest name nationally and Ford has the most experience, but Oklahoma fans are buzzing about redshirt sophomore Alex Ross. Ross reportedly impressed the coaching staff during last season's bowl practices after Damien Williams' late-season dismissal, and he has been splitting a majority of the first unit reps this spring with Ford.

Ross' potential even inspired a "This is the year of Alex Ross" thread on 247Sports. The first post in the thread drew comparisons to Adrian Peterson. Check out some of the comments below:

-- From James Hale, 247Sports writer: "Yes I saw him in high school and Ross was amazing and a man among boys at both rush DE and at RB. He was also a fantastic kick returner. I have also been told at spring practice and at training camp he has been the best game breaking RB and has been super carrying the football."

-- "I think that Ross has a chance to be OU's version of Bama's Derrick Henry. A big, bad *** bruiser carrying the ball. But to have a chance to do that, he'll have to learn to block, not fumble the ball and stay on Coach Bob's good side by keeping his cool and not get any stupid penalties."

-- "Merv [Johnson, director of football ops] said he ran the stretch play better than anybody since AD. That was last fall."

-- "Ford played because he is our most physical back and that was a dimension we did not have with Clay,Williams,or Finch. Ross is not as physical as he needs to be for his size. He is physical sure because of his size. Ross on the other hand is explosive like AD or Dwight McFadden."

What we're saying is … the depth is more encouraging than Ross' potential. This may be the year of Alex Ross; or it could be Joe Mixon's breakout or Keith Ford could emerge as the Sooners' go-to-guy in the backfield. It is worth mentioning that redshirt sophomore David Smith has been flying under the radar and defensive end Charles Tapper was giving complitments to former scout team back Daniel Brooks for being hard to tackle.

All of this is great news for Sooners fans.

If Oklahoma is going to run more up-tempo with Trevor Knight at quarterback, like they did in the Sugar Bowl win against Alabama, then the Sooners will need multiple backs that can carry the ball at least 10-15 times per game. A productive rushing attack with multiple backs will also take a lot of pressure off Knight as he settles in to the full-time starter role.

Oklahoma fans should not take for granted how lucky the program is to graduate three letterman at running back and enter the next season with three (or more) capable options ready to go at that same position. That's a credit to Bob Stoops and running backs coach Cale Gundy for getting the job done on the recruiting trail.

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