Nationals

Oklahoma's depth at running back starting to show

201211031503542326883-p2.jpeg

Oklahoma's depth at running back starting to show

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) For most of three seasons, Brennan Clay has bided his time, waiting for his chance to be the starting running back for No. 14 Oklahoma.

That chance came Saturday against Iowa State and Clay shined with a 157-yard effort. His emergence gives Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops a good problem as the Sooners (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) prepare to host Baylor (4-4, 1-4) this Saturday - a slew of running backs who have produced in big games.

Clay replaced the injured Damien Williams, who ranks in the top five in the Big 12 Conference in rushing and had 167 yards in a win over Texas. But neither was the starter in the season opener - that was former walk-on Dominique Whaley, who broke an ankle halfway through the 2011 campaign. Stoops said Monday that Whaley is healthy despite receiving limited carries in recent weeks.

Add in Roy Finch, who's been mired down the depth chart but has excelled on returns, and the Sooners have at least four tailbacks who would seem capable of lifting their ground game. And that's not even including fullback Trey Millard, who had 119 yards receiving against Texas.

All five backs are averaging at least 6.2 yards per carry and the Sooners are averaging 175.1 yards rushing per game, which helps take pressure off quarterback Landry Jones, who has a 301.8-yard per-game passing average.

``Whenever you can establish the run, it definitely opens things up,'' wide receiver Justin Brown said. ``That's one of the main things you want to do as an offense, establish the run, because it makes everything a lot easier.''

Clay had shown flashes of brilliance - including a 59-yard outing against Texas and a 41-yard run against Kansas - but set career highs for both carries (24) and yards against Iowa State. He showed both elusiveness and power against the Cyclones, capping his game with an 18-yard third-quarter touchdown run

``Brennan's doing great,'' Stoops said. ``He did a great job the other day finding space, being patient, waiting for some blocks to develop. I thought the guys up front are always a part of whatever the running back's doing. The line, better blocking, Aaron Ripkowski, Trey Millard, Jayden Bird (were) doing a nice job also, creating some space for him.

``Brennan has always been a good player for us. He just had one of those games where he really got hot. He's capable of that. He's had a lot of good games here - not to that extent, but he's capable of it.''

Clay said he found out late last week that Williams, who is nursing an ankle injury, wouldn't play against Iowa State. Stoops said running backs coach Cale Gundy thought Clay was more ready than Whaley to start against the Cyclones.

Clay, who battled a pinched nerve in his neck last season, said it wasn't as tough to wait for extended playing time as outsiders might think.

``I'm very patient,'' Clay said. ``I've always been that way. I know Gundy does a great job. He knows what he's doing. He puts the best players on the field, obviously, and whoever is going to help the team win.

``When you come to a program like this, I really consider this another `Running Back U.,' like (USC), a couple of other schools,'' Clay said. ``Anybody can go down at any moment. You've just got to be able to step up and take your turn. I was able to do it. I was blessed enough to be able to do so.''

Clay said he ``takes pride in perfecting my craft and doing what I can do on the field'' and that he wants to ``leave a legacy as someone who was a hard worker.''

Williams, who had three carries for 7 yards against the Cyclones, figures to start against Baylor if he's healthy, as he was listed atop the Sooners' depth chart issued Monday. Clay and Whaley, who had one carry against Iowa State, still are listed as the backups. Clay said nothing will change as far as his preparation for the game against the Bears, whether he's the starter or not.

``I just keep doing what I do,'' Clay said. ``I'm going to approach practice this week the same as I've done for the past eight or nine weeks. Keep doing everything I can do to help this team win.''

Quick Links

National League All-Star Game Roster Projection: How it will all break down

scherzer_asg_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports

National League All-Star Game Roster Projection: How it will all break down

In less than a month, the 2018 MLB All-Star game will take place at Nationals Park.

There are plenty of details that still need ironing out, but none are more important than the 64 players that will be taking the field at the Midsummer Classic.

Surely the Washington Nationals are hoping that many of their hometown stars will make the cut.

So, lets clear the air. How are the MLB All-Star rosters created? Well it is a combination of the fan vote, the player ballots, and the MLB Commissioners Office. No, it is not a 33-33-33 split, but rather a political (yet fair) process. Here is how it shakes out for there to be 32 players on each team:

  • Fan vote: eight position players in NL/ nine in AL (DH); plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 16 players in NL; 17 players in AL (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players) and five AL players (four pitchers, one position player)

Keep in mind, the MLB Commissioner’s Office merely is just there to ensure that there is one representative from all 30 MLB teams. Additionally, the player’s ballots are generally in-line with statistics and name recognition.

So let’s see how this shakes out for the National League All-Star Game roster. This factors in the latest fan vote returns:

National League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Buster Posey, Giants (Fan Vote), Wilson Contreras, Cubs (Player Ballot)
1B – Freddie Freeman, Braves (Fan Vote), Jose Martinez, Cardinals (Player Ballot), Justin Bour, Marlins (Commissioner’s Office)
2B – Ozzie Albies, Braves (Fan Vote), Scooter Gennett, Reds (Player Ballot)
3B – Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Fan Vote), Kris Bryant, Cubs (Player Ballot)
SS – Brandon Crawford, Giants (Fan Vote), Chris Taylor, Dodgers (Player Ballot)
OF – Nick Markakis, Braves (Fan Vote), Bryce Harper, Nationals (Fan Vote), Matt Kemp (Fan Vote), Albert Almora Jr., Cubs (Player Ballot), Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (Player Ballot), Corey Dickerson, Pirates (Player Ballot), David Peralta, Diamondbacks (Commissioner’s Office), Christian Yelich (Commissioner’s Office)

SP – Max Scherzer, Nationals (Player Ballot), Sean Newcomb, Braves (Player Ballot), Jon Lester, Cubs (Player Ballot), Aaron Nola, Phillies (Player Ballot), Jacob deGrom, Mets (Player Ballot), Mike Foltynewicz, Braves (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Brad Hand, Padres (Player Ballot), Sean Doolittle, Nationals (Player Ballot), Josh Hader Brewers (Player Ballot), Wade Davis, Rockies (Commissioner’s Office), Kenley Jansen (Commissioner’s Office), Jeremy Jeffress (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Dave Roberts, Dodgers

After this, there will be one more player chosen by another fan vote. The MLB Commissioner’s Office, along with the manager, choses five players to be selected in the penultimate vote. 

This puts three Nationals on the All-Star team with the Braves leading the charge with five selections.

Now of course nothing ever goes to plan, but heck its baseball, not everyone will be happy.

MORE NATS NEWS:

Quick Links

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

usatsi_9275656.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

Less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup, the Caps are in need of a new head coach.

Barry Trotz resigned as the Caps coach on Monday after he and the team failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. How did we get here and where do both parties go from here? JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break it all down.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.