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SPORTS: University of Oklahoma

Losing Millard Hurts, But Sooners Get To Determine How Much

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When the Oklahoma Sooners lost fullback Trey Millard to an ACL tear against Texas Tech last Saturday, they lost much more than their best blocker.

"Losing Trey was really detrimental to our team as a whole," running back Brennan Clay said. "He is not just an offensive player, he is an all-around player, losing him on special teams, kickoff, kickoff return and blocking for myself, Damien [Williams] and Roy [Finch], he does a great job.

"You never want to see a player like that go down and like I said earlier, he is a humble, down-to-earth kid and it is really heartbreaking to see him go down like that."

It wouldn't be hard to make a case for Millard as the most valuable player on the team. He carried the football, paved the way for OU's impressive run game and was—according to coach Bob Stoops—"the team's best special teams player the past three years."

Now, the question for the Sooners isn't if the loss of Millard will affect them, but how much?

The Sooners seemed to find an offensive identity against Texas Tech, rushing for 277 yards while throwing the ball enough and with enough efficiency to keep the Red Raiders' defense on their toes.

Millard was obviously a big part of that great performance on the ground, clearing the path for Williams, Finch and Clay. Stoops has repeatedly countered calls for Millard to get more touches by asking who would be blocking for him. Much of the Sooners' success on the ground the past three years has come as a result of Millard leading the way.

Stoops said it will take "quite a few" players to replace Millard on the field, most notably fellow fullback Aaron Ripkowski and tight end Brannon Green. Green came in to replace Millard in the fourth quarter against Tech and was key in the Sooners' final drive, a 12-play, 56-yard drive that ate 5:56 off the clock and resulted in a Michael Hunnicutt field goal that pushed the OU lead to eight.

"Brannon is going to have to have more of a role now, but he's been doing really well," Stoops said. "He's a guy that works hard and has really come along. He has good hands. He'll be one of the guys that will have to get more opportunities in there. I'm proud of the way we took the ball over and didn't give it back for seven minutes. I was really excited to see us do that again in the game."

As for how different the offense would look going forward, Stoops said that would be determined by the offensive staff going forward. It's possible there won't be any schematic changes at all.

"It will be just offensive coaches sitting down and deciding personnel wise, how much, if any, we want to change," Stoops said about the process. "It's not like you go draft somebody; we have the guys we have."

One of the biggest things the Sooners will have to guard against is being too predictable. With Millard on the field, the Sooners could go to a variety of formations without changing personnel thanks to Millard's versatility. Now, it could be more difficult to disguise what the offense is trying to accomplish with Green and Ripkowski coming on the field for situational purposes.

"It is rough, but Brannon Green and Aaron Ripkowski are going to do a great job at filling that void," Clay said. "They both have to work together and prepare for this upcoming opponent."

Even if the offense remains unpredictable to a certain degree, the loss of Millard is going to demand a higher level of execution from the rest of the offense to compensate for the slightly lower level of play from Millard's position.

If you had made a list at the beginning of the season of players the Sooners could least afford to lose, Millard would probably have been at the top, or at least very near the top of that list. Now, the Sooners must try to recover from the loss of their best offensive and special teams player, as well as another team captain.

It won't be easy and only the Sooners can determine how much this devastating blow is going to affect them going forward.

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