Although both teams lost senior starters to the NFL from last season, both have dynamic senior running back prospects on the offensive side of the football. Running back Charles Sims transferred in from Houston as a graduate student and will be reuniting with his former offensive coordinator and now West Virginia head coach, Dana Holgorsen. Sims impresses mostly with contact balance and great vision, but more importantly brings plus athletic traits to the table as a bigger back with excellent feet, body control and subtle elusiveness at 6’0+, 210+ pounds. For Oklahoma, their back transferred in from the junior college ranks prior to last season. Damien Williams is built like a Spartan with muscle and bulk throughout his frame, and more importantly possesses some natural explosiveness to his game. Williams lacks ideal getup speed or first step acceleration, but can pick his angle and cut off defenders with a nice slide step in the open field.
More often than not, you’ll see Williams lower his shoulder and finish with contact, but he’s been very inconsistent with his vision to date and lacks the makeup burst to compensate. Another back for Oklahoma to watch is senior Brennan Clay. Capable of locating and attacking tighter creases than his counterpart Damien Williams, Brennan Clay possesses plus long speed and initial burst. Doing a little bit of everything, you’ll see Clay taking carries, occasionally returning kicks, and covering punts, as well as receiving 3rd down snaps as an effective blocker and pass catcher.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention All-College Football fullback Trey Millard. Famous for his hurdling stiff-arm during the Red River Rivalry game versus the University of Texas, Millard is a unique fullback prospect that the NFL is fully prepared to welcome with open arms. In an age where the traditional fullback has nearly become extinct at the NFL level (insert sad face because fullback was my favorite position as a young player), Trey Millard’s combination of athletic movement skills, and plus coordination as a runner and receiver make him an ideal H-Back type that can be motioned around the field for mismatches.
The top prospect to watch in this game is Oklahoma senior corner Aaron Colvin. Having a long, lean frame and plus ball skills, Colvin showcases NFL ready turn and run skills, as well as the range to stay stride for stride with vertical patterns. Leveraging and positioning himself properly while the ball is in flight, Colvin consistently gets his hands on jump balls and more often than not will win 50-50 competitions. Against a West Virginia team lacking a true number one receiver, Colvin should have his way with whomever he’s tasked with guarding. The next top prospect in this game is a player Colvin likely faced in one-on-one drills during practice.
Receiver Jalen Saunders broke out in a big way in last year’s win on the road at West Virginia with 7 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown, and there’s no reason why he can’t produce similar numbers in this year’s matchup. Winning with elite start and stop agility at the top of routes, as well as creating yards for himself with elusiveness after the catch, Saunders showcased ideal slot starter skills a year ago with minimal experience in Oklahoma’s offense or ideal timing with his quarterback Landry Jones. With a year of experience under his belt and a full offseason, expect Saunders’ role to expand in 2013 and hopefully we’ll see Oklahoma utilize him as an outside receiver, where he dominated the Mountain West conference before transferring out of Fresno State.
Most eyes will be on Oklahoma redshirt freshman starting quarterback, Trevor Knight, but scouts will be watching the Sooners’ extremely talented offensive line. Junior offensive tackles Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson have shown themselves to have above average foot speed, heavy hands and good functional playing strength, but the fact remains that the two have just 16 career starts combined. Both of these tackles will likely square off against WVU’s linear defensive end prospect, Will Clarke. Long, explosive through the hips and capable of setting the edge versus the run, Clarke has yet to “put it all together” but flashes typical 5-technique stuff –can stack/shed on the edge to make plays in the backfield, effective with arm-over swim moves to disengage as a pass rusher and won’t get stood up by double teams. Helping offset Oklahoma’s inexperience are guards Adam Shead, Bronson Irwin, and center Gabe Ikard, who combine for 68 career starts.
Being a senior and team captain, Ikard opens the season as our top rated center prospect thanks in large part to his very good movement skills, lateral agility and consistent second level blocking skills. Used in unique ways for the Sooners’ zone running game, Ikard can be seen pulling on stretch plays, overtaking playside 3-techniques or working to cutoff playside linebackers –because of his athleticism and fundamentally sound blocking skills, he can accomplish such tasks with proficiency. Ikard has slightly above average anchor strength and can be susceptible to power moves, so it’ll be important to watch his matchup with West Virginia nose tackle Shaq Rowell. Using his girth and length to absorb initial contact, lockout and drive his legs to collapse from the interior, Rowell’s hand placement will be critical as Ikard generally operates with an efficient punch and reset to control the point of attack.
West Virginia’s hope is for one of the two junior quarterbacks, Paul Millard or Clint Trickett, to emerge as “the guy” in this week’s critical conference game. Millard started the opener and had modest success (19-25, 237 yards and 1 TD passing) against FCS opponent William & Mary. Solid, albeit not spectacular, Millard has yet to fully stake claim to the starting job as head coach Dana Holgorsen insists Florida State-transfer Clint Trickett is still in the mix. In limited playing time at FSU, Trickett always stood out as a cerebral, accurate passer that had the right mix of mental makeup and arm talent. I’m interested to see if either player can make a statement versus a tough Oklahoma secondary.
Regardless of the quarterback, protecting the backside will be junior Quinton Spain. Allowing two sacks in a game isn’t an ideal day at the office for a left tackle, but what makes it hurt is the fact that the two sacks were given up against an far less talented William & Mary squad. Spain lacks great foot speed or range to his kick slide and can be over aggressive with his hands off the snap, so his play against Oklahoma will tell scouts whether or not last week’s performance was an anomaly or a real concern.
Others to Watch:
(JR) Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma - #10, 6’6, 252
Roy Finch, RB, Oklahoma - #22, 5’7, 167
Lacoltan Bester, WR, Oklahoma - #11, 6’3, 195
Jaz Reynolds, WR, Oklahoma - #16, 6’2, 198
Corey Nelson, OLB, Oklahoma - #7, 6’1, 226
Gabe Lynn, CB, Oklahoma - #9, 6’0, 204
(JR) Dreamius Smith, RB, West Virginia - #2, 5’11, 217
Ivan McCartney, WR, West Virginia - #85, 6’2, 182
Curtis Feigt, OT, West Virginia - #62, 6’7, 314
(JR) Quinton Spain, OT, West Virginia - #67, 6’5, 335
Doug Rigg, ILB, West Virginia - #47, 6’1, 237
Darwin Cook, S, West Virginia – 5’11, 203