- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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This week, we’ve begun examining the strongest and weakest positions for each team in the Big 12 going into the fall.
We continue the series below with the Oklahoma Sooners:
Strongest position: Running back
Any time a potential All-American could lose carries to a highly-touted redshirt freshman, you have good depth at running back.
Potential All-American Samaje Perine (1,713 yards, 21 touchdowns) isn’t looking over his shoulder, nor is his job in peril, but the competition for carries at Oklahoma is a situation to watch throughout the fall. Redshirt freshman Joe Mixon, who was actually the Sooners' headline running back recruit in the Class of 2014, looks ready for a role in the offense after his yearlong suspension. He could be used alongside Perine.
Alex Ross rarely comes to mind when most think about the Sooners' running backs, but he averaged more yards per carry (6.76) than Perine (6.51). The junior has big-play speed and can make an impact on games on offense or on kick returns. Behind that trio, early enrollee freshman Rodney Anderson has the potential to force his way into a role despite the depth. Spring star Daniel Brooks could also be a factor as a quick scatback who could be ideal for Lincoln Riley’s offense.
Despite the recent loss of Keith Ford, running back is easily the deepest position on the Sooners' roster and one of the deepest in the Big 12.
Weakest position: Defensive back
Zack Sanchez needs help.
The Sooners' All-Big 12 cornerback., who made six interceptions last season, needs someone to emerge on the other side of the field to help solidify a defense that allowed 7.04 yards per pass attempt in 2014. Sophomore Jordan Thomas had a solid spring, particularly the second half, but Oklahoma will need more than just Thomas and Sanchez if they hope to handle Big 12 offenses. Help should arrive in the summer with ESPN 300 cornerback P.J. Mbanasor and others.
The safety spot is in better shape, particularly if a trio of freshmen arrive in the summer ready to play. Sophomore Steven Parker is a future star, junior Ahmad Thomas is the leading returning tackler in the secondary (74 tackles) and Hatari Byrd should be ready for an increased role. But the Sooners have zero depth behind that trio, meaning their three freshman signees, including Kahlil Haughton and Will Sunderland, must be ready to play immediately.
Oklahoma has talent at defensive back and new secondary coach Kerry Cooks is tasked with molding that talent into a group of playmakers. But the Sooners' defense has a ways to go before transforming last year’s weak link into a strength.
Oklahoma has a strong group of running backs, but needs help in the defensive secondary.