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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is taking a pragmatic attitude to using his running backs this spring.
DeMarco Murray is sitting out spring practice after surgery on his hamstring after he was injured late last season. Mossis Madu is being utilized as much as a slot receiver as a runner and Chris Brown's carries are being limited by Stoops because of his past production.
"He doesn't need to show anything to me," Stoops said about Brown. "I know what [he] can do. I'm not interested in seeing Chris get banged around at all. "
That has meant heavy use of redshirt freshman Jermie Calhoun and Justin Johnson in the Sooners' early spring work.
Calhoun, a bullish 210-pounder from Van, Texas, is hoping to emerge after his redshirt season. He was ranked as the No. 1 running back nationally by Scouts Inc. and by CSTV after rushing for 1,910 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2007.
Sitting on the bench was difficult for him last year, putting more emphasis on him to make the most of his opportunities this spring when returning 1,000-yard backs Brown and Murray are getting little use.
"I just want to see the field," Calhoun said. "We still have two great running backs. I want to get a chance to play when I have the chance. "
The adjustment to college was difficult for Calhoun, particularly because he didn't get a chance to play in his first college season.
It made him even more excited to produce when he gets the chance this spring, he said.
"It felt great to get back in pads and start running again," Calhoun said. "Last season was kind of rough, redshirting and sitting on the sidelines. But this time, I think I'll be able to spend some time on the field. "
Despite being called out by Stoops before the team's first spring practice, the offensive line has shown flashes with Calhoun, Johnson and Madu in the backfield.
"We just started off with the basics and made some good runs," Oklahoma sophomore offensive lineman Alex Williams said. "I'm not shocked or anything with how Jermie has run. He's impressed me and everybody is ready to step up."
Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has been pleasantly surprised by Calhoun's early production.
"Sometimes, you look at him and it seems like he's not that fast," Bradford said. "And then he makes a run and shows a burst and nobody is catching him. Any time you see that style from a running back is good to see."
While getting more of the workload this spring, Calhoun and Johnson are turning some heads in the process.
"I haven't seen that much of them, but they really complement each other well," Bradford said. "They can do everything -- run between the tackles and run outside. It's good to see what they can do."