First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge junior running back Damien Williams, who has been without a doubt the best newcomer on the Sooners' roster. Williams’ performance has greatly overshadowed that of Trey Metoyer, the highly touted freshman wide receiver whose performance this spring made the loss of Ryan Broyles seem irrelevant.
Williams came into Norman as a junior college transfer (Arizona Western), and his play through the first two games was reminiscent of past superstar Adrian Peterson. Okay, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but his stats matchup well—Williams is the first OU running back since Peterson to carry for over 100 yards in his first two games.
Did I mention this guy is the backup?
After three games, Williams leads the Sooners in both rushing yards (293) and rushing touchdowns (five), yet he only has 30 total carries to his name.
For those that don’t want to do the math, that’s an average of 9.8 yards per carry. If that sounds impressive, it’s because it is. Williams leads the nation in yards per carry by a full yard.
Williams’ presence has greatly diminished the need for the fan-favorite “Belldozer” package, which was installed last year due to the Sooners struggles in the red zone. Bell, who ran for a team-high 13 touchdowns last season, has only produced three yards on 10 carries and has primarily been used only for 3rd and short situations.
It won’t be too long until the Belldozer package is abolished completely, especially if Williams continues his success and stays healthy—this is where current starting running back Dominique Whaley went wrong last season. Obviously, Whaley wasn’t trying to get injured, but his injury is what forced the Belldozer package to come into existence, and it’s consequently aiding Williams in his first-year tryout.
Whaley has totaled 168 yards and one touchdown on 30 rushing attempts this season. This averages out to 5.6 yards per carry, which is roughly equivalent to his average last season. Still, Whaley has had trouble holding onto the ball, and he hasn’t looked nearly as explosive as he did during his coming-out party last season. He has done nothing to prove that he is more deserving of the starting role than Williams.
I was shocked Williams wasn't the starter against Kansas State. He has proved to be the best running back on the roster in OU’s first two games, and he has earned a move up the depth chart. I wouldn't be shocked if Whaley is, once again, the starter this upcoming weekend.
Can you tell I’m a Damien Williams fan, yet? I’m not going to say I called it, but I can at least say that Williams was by far my favorite transfer/signing this past offseason for the Sooners. So, I assume your asking yourself where junior running back Roy Finch comes into the picture. This has been an article dominantly about Williams’ success, yet Finch receives the glory in the title.
Do I think Finch deserves to start ahead of Williams? No way.
However, he has to start getting more touches, even if that means playing him ahead of Whaley. He is easily the most exciting player on the roster, and I mean that based on his ability to move with the ball.
Watching Finch run is exactly like watching a video game in real life. His spin moves (and there are a lot of them) seem effortless, his jukes constantly shake defenders and his quickness is uncanny. Still, the saga of his playing career has been confusing at best.
After a solid freshman season of backup duty, Finch looked poised to take over as the starter last season. Of course, Whaley came out of nowhere and blew everyone out of the water, so Finch’s backup role made sense. However, when Whaley went down with a mid-season injury, Finch stepped in admirably as the starter after receiving just 16 carries prior.
After being under-utilized for half a season, Finch ended the year with over 600 yards on the ground to go along with three touchdowns. He also proved to be a capable receiver out of the backfield, finishing with 34 receptions for 296 yards.
Finally, Finch was getting some recognition, and it seemed like the coaching staff really saw his potential. With Whaley’s return to the lineup imminent, this offseason Finch was used in a handful of different ways. Along with taking his normal snaps at running back, he also tried out at slot receiver. Getting his dynamic skill set on the field as much as possible was a must, or so it seemed.
In the Sooners rather lackluster season opening victory at UTEP, Finch never even saw the field.
Sure, Williams accounted for over 100 yards, but no other running back even appeared to be on his level. Where was Finch hiding during all of this? Was he sick? Was there an injury we weren’t aware of?
Finch, who still returns kickoffs with fellow junior Brennan Clay, finally got some reps at running back in the Sooners Week 2 matchup at home against Florida A&M. Finch totaled 50 yards on just five carries. Sure the game was a blowout, and sure he was going up against a FCS defense, but 10 yards per carry doesn’t lie, just like Williams’ 9.8 yards per carry.
Surely, the coaching staff would try to get Finch on the field more against Kansas State, I thought. Alas, Finch finished with just one carry for 11 yards. Of course, there was that one play where Finch seemed to forget he was getting the ball from Landry Jones on a pitch, and it nearly cost the Sooners possession and field position, but that was just one mess up.
If a player's snaps are determined by their mess-ups on the field, then Jones would have been out of the Kansas State game by halftime. Something more has to be going on with Finch.
If Finch has found his way into Bob Stoops' doghouse, then he needs to work his problems out fast, because the Sooners desperately need the depth and playmaking he provides.
If that’s not the case, though, these coaches need to reevaluate their decisions. Finch is too good not to see the field, and that’s why I’m starting a Free Roy Finch movement (feel free to tweet #FRF during the game for support).
Somebody has to do it, right?