By John Shinn
Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson’s goal is to have five skill players on the field who can do anything. He’d like to be able to throw it to any of them, hand it to any of them and rely on any of them to block.
“The more diverse you are, and the more you can bring to the table, the more we’ll use you and the better for us,” he said.
One reason the Sooners have enjoyed dominant offensive units is they’ve had personnel like Jermaine Gresham, Brody Eldridge and Matt Clapp. They were listed as tight ends or fullbacks, but their best trait was they could be lined up anywhere.
None of the three were much of a factor last season due to injuries. But Wilson sees one of the biggest keys to OU’s offensive success being that fullback/tight end group.
“That group is a tremendous complementary piece. That complement was a total wash last year. Hopefully, that group will make that line look maybe better than they are,” Wilson said. “If not, they’ll make them look worse than they are. That’s what happened last year.”
The fullbacks are an interesting group because none of them saw significant playing time last year. But the Sooners need one player to emerge to help get their running game going.
Marshall Musil was one of the stars of the spring game when he rushed for 92 yards, but carrying the ball is a distant third in traits OU is looking for from its fullback. Blocking is No. 1. Catching is No. 2. No. 3 rarely happens and Musil knows it.
“I have to get my blocking down,” Musil said.
The Sooners also have Brandon Crow. The former linebacker switched to the position last season, but only played on special teams.
The most intriguing player in the mix is freshman Trey Millard. The Missouri native entered the preseason already weighing 242 pounds and has the build to come right in and play.
OU coach Bob Stoops has been impressed.
“He’s been outstanding,” Stoops said. “He runs and plays great. He’s going to be really good. He’s really, I think, a special talent. For his size and ability and maturity, the way he handles himself, he’s got a chance to be really good.”
The tight end spot is something the Sooners need to re-intergrate into the offense. After Gresham went down to a preseason knee injury, the position wasn’t really part of the passing game. As a whole, OU’s tight end’s only caught 19 passes last season.
“We need guys like Trent Ratterree and James Hanna to mature,” Wilson said.
Ratterree caught 11 passes last season, but really stood out in the Sun Bowl victory with 86 receiving yards. Hanna only had seven catches last season. Both are juniors, but they’re going to pushed for playing time by sophomore Lane Johnson and freshman Austin Haywood. The former Southmoore standout was one of the best players in the state last season. At 6-foot-3 and 237 pounds, he’s big enough to play right away.
Above all else, Wilson believes the group sets the tone for his offense. When it plays tenaciously, OU can realize the offensive balance it seeks.
“Yes, we had some injuries exposed and then some lack of experience, but we didn’t really have the toughness that a good team needs,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, since some of these guys played, we’re going to be tougher.”