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Sooners' Backfield Stacked With Young Talent

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Roy Finch (left) is one of five running backs competing for playing time with the Sooners this season. (AP Image) Roy Finch (left) is one of five running backs competing for playing time with the Sooners this season. (AP Image)

Corey DeMoss, News9.com

NORMAN, Oklahoma – The Oklahoma Sooners currently are experiencing one of the best problems a team can have: Too much talent at one position.

Record-breaking running back DeMarco Murray left for the NFL after last season, but he leaves a deep group of young talent in his wake. The Sooners have five running backs who all were at least four-star recruits coming out of high school.

"It's fun. All the running back are competing every day at practice, and that's really motivating me to become that guy," sophomore Roy Finch said.

Finch saw the most playing time of the group last year as a true freshman, rushing for 398 yards and two touchdowns. He was a preseason All-Big 12 selection, but he isn't even listed on the current depth chart.

"Keeping me off the depth chart really opened my eyes," Finch said. "I've got to step up and do the right things because you only get this chance once in your life."

Finch was rated the fourth-best running back recruit in the nation in 2010, but teammate Brennan Clay was one of the three ranked ahead of him. Clay saw limited playing time last season after he suffered a concussion late in OU's victory over Florida State and had to be carted off the field.

But Clay returned at full strength this offseason and has impressed the coaching staff, resulting in him sitting atop the depth chart. He was the most consistent runner during the Sooners' spring game, and Bob Stoops praised his ball security.

"We're so gifted [as a unit] that it kind of pushes all of us that much more," Clay said. "If you surround yourself with great talent, you become great talent."

Slated behind Clay on the depth chart is Jonathan Miller, who redshirted last season after averaging 7.2 yards per carry as a freshman in 2009. Behind him, the Sooners also have incoming freshman Brandon Williams and junior Jermie Calhoun.

Williams is one of two five-star recruits joining the Sooners this year, and Calhoun was rated the No. 2 running back in the nation in the 2008 class. Calhoun enters this season as a junior, the oldest member of the five-man running back group.

That means Oklahoma will have this embarrassment of riches in the backfield for several years. With so many players to choose from, the Sooners likely will abandon the concept of the workhouse running back.

DeMarco Murray ran the ball 282 times last year, accounting for more than half of the Sooners' carries. The workload will be split much more evenly this season, which could give teams nightmares. OU will always have fresh legs available, and opponents will never be able to plan for just one player.

Each of the running backs on this year's teams realizes he will have to work for any carries he gets, but they also are not shy about proclaiming just how good the unit as a whole can be.

"I feel like this group could be the best to ever come through Oklahoma," Finch said. "I'm going out on a limb to say that, but anything and everything that you want in a running back, we have it."

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