- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla -- Alex Ross was one of the buzz-worthy names for Oklahoma during the Sooners’ preseason preparations last August. The true freshman was making noise as a player who could play himself out of a redshirt season despite OU’s depth at running back.
That didn’t happen.
The 2012 season came and went without Ross stepping on the field. Yet the redshirt freshman wasn’t too disappointed.
“I kind of knew I was going to redshirt when I got here,” Ross said.
A stellar prospect with excellent speed and good size at 6-foot-1, 217 pounds, Ross understood why he was redshirted. Juniors Damien Williams, Brennan Clay and Roy Finch were in line to get the bulk of the carries, leaving nothing more than potential spot duty for Ross. And limited action wasn’t worth losing a full year of eligibility.
Still, it was a struggle to watch from the sidelines.
“It was kind of tough sometimes,” Ross said. “Every day I came out to practice knowing I wasn’t going to play. I just still tried to make the other guys who were playing better by just going hard. That was the only thing I could do.”
He hopes to do more in 2013. But his road to getting playing time hasn’t gotten any easier. Williams, Clay and Finch return and coach Bob Stoops said he expects true freshman Keith Ford to play this season.
Five different running backs, limited opportunities.
“It’s not that hard, you’re just working hard,” Ross said of competing with so many different backs. “We’re all just out there working. So regardless of how many people it is we’re all there for the same reason. We want to get better for the team.”
Fortunately for Ross, Stoops has singled him out as a top performer after at least one scrimmage this August and has plenty of praise for the No. 70 player in the Class of 2012.
“I’m excited about Alex,” Stoops said. “He’s physical and a big guy and he can run. Watching him out there now, there are fewer mistakes and he’s getting comfortable and knows what to do.”
Additional weight and an belief that he belongs are key traits Ross added during his redshirt season. Last season, he was hopeful he belonged. This season, he knows he does.
“I probably just wasn’t as confident as I am this year because I was just young and I didn’t know what I was doing out there,” Ross said. “This year is different because I’m older and just trying to get better. I just got more practice, more carries, knowing what I am doing, just getting better than last year.”
And he’ll need to be if he hopes to see a bulk of carries in a loaded OU backfield.
6dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon