Oklahoma Sooners: Aaron Ripkowski

During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 48 Aaron Ripkowski, fullback, 6-foot-1, 257 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Ripkowski may have made the biggest impact during the Bob Stoops era for a player with one reception for 3 yards and one touchdown during his first three seasons. He’s played a key role in the Sooners offense since his redshirt freshman season. He made an immediate impact as a extra blocker in short-yardage situations during his first two seasons then as a fullback as a junior, particularly after Trey Millard's injury. He’s played in 33 games with eight starts heading into his final season.

Impact in 2014: Expect Ripkowski to be a critical contributor for his fourth straight season. His blocking, durability and production cements his spot in the offense, even with true freshman Dimitri Flowers looking like a key contributor in 2014.

Long-term upside: He will leave Norman as one of the top walk-ons during the Stoops’ era.

Evaluation grade for Ripkowski: C. When you consider his contribution during his time in the program, Ripkowski should have gotten a scholarship from the outset. OU eventually did reward his impact with a scholarship after it was clear he had earned it.

Development grade for Ripkowski: A. As soon as OU recognized Ripkowski could help win games, the Sooners put him on the field. Scholarship or no scholarship, they found a role for him alongside Millard early in his career and he’s rewarded them with stellar production.
Several players will decide the success of the Oklahoma Sooners this fall.

Some Sooners will have more of an impact than others and will be counted on to be the foundation of the squad in 2014. This week we’ll count down the five most important players on offense, taking into account their expected contribution, the quality of their backups and their previous production.

No. 5: Fullback Aaron Ripkowski, senior

2013 role: He was a major contributor to OU’s 11-2 season in 2013 in a fullback/tight end role. Ripkowski played in all 13 games, starting seven, and saw his role increase after Trey Millard was lost during the season. His blocking and durability was critical for the Sooners during their Sugar Bowl championship run.

Expected 2014 role: Ripkowski should play a very similar role to last season while also mentoring true freshman Dimitri Flowers to serve a similar role. The former walk-on has played in 33 games during his Sooners’ career and has gotten better every season. There's no reason to think that will change during his final campaign.

Why he’s important: The Sooners want to continue to be a physical running squad after ranking No. 20 nationally in yards per carry (5.21) last season. Ripkowski will be one of the centerpieces of that plan. His experience, consistency and toughness will make him a critical, though likely overlooked, member of OU’s offense. He can line up at tight end or fullback and have an impact on the game with his toughness regardless of the quality of the opponent.

If he was missing: The Sooners would have to lean on the inexperienced Flowers to fill some, if not all, of Ripkowski’s duties. Even though the true freshman appears mature beyond his years, OU’s offense would badly miss the consistent play of Ripkowski. Additionally, the Sooners would also be forced to turn to other options to fill the tight end role including Blake Bell or Taylor McNamara. Flowers and Bell appear likely to play alongside Ripkowski but if the senior fullback isn’t involved, OU's options at both positions would suffer a setback.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. On Tuesday, we continue the series with Oklahoma:

Offense (projected starters in bold)

QB: Trevor Knight (So.), Cody Thomas (RFr.), Justice Hansen (Fr.)

[+] EnlargeKeith Ford
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsAfter receiving only 23 carries last season as a freshman, OU's Keith Ford will likely be the starting tailback in 2014.
The Sooners feel great about putting the offense in the hands of Knight after his Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP performance against Alabama. The sophomore looked like a future star against the Crimson Tide while leading the Sooners to a 45-31 upset win. OU is inexperienced behind Knight with a pair of freshman in Thomas and Hansen. Former Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield, who transferred to OU in January, would be the perfect fit behind Knight but won’t be eligible to play until 2015. If he plays consistent and remains healthy, Knight could lead his team to a College Football Playoff berth. If not, OU could flounder below expectations and look back upon the 2014 season as a missed opportunity.

RB: Keith Ford (So.), Alex Ross (So.), Daniel Brooks (So.)

Ford exits spring as the favorite to start in the backfield, but he didn’t take the job and hide during 15 spring practices. Ross was one of the stars of the spring as he continually made plays during scrimmages, and Brooks was one of the standouts during the spring game. OU has several talented options at running back and is poised to add two top freshman runners in Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine.

FB/TE: Aaron Ripkowski (Sr.), Dimitri Flowers (Fr.), Blake Bell (Sr.)

OU uses fullbacks and tight ends in similar ways as both positions spend their meeting time with tight ends coach Jay Boulware. Ripkowski is one of the unsung heroes on the entire roster. He played a critical role during the team's strong finish to the 2013 season. Flowers has stepped on campus ready to make an impact with his versatility and football IQ after enrolling in school early. Bell has moved over from quarterback and looks poised to make an impact as a pass catcher with his size and athleticism. It’s a talented and versatile group that is likely to get overlooked this fall but could be the foundation of any success the team has on offense.

WR: Sterling Shepard (Jr.), Derrick Woods (So.), Durron Neal (Jr.), K.J. Young (RFr.), Jordan Smallwood (RFr.), Austin Bennett (So.)

Shepard should be one of the Big 12’s top receivers if Knight continues to develop as a passer. OU badly needs someone to emerge alongside Shepard if it hopes to have a strong passing game to help make the 2014 version of the offense more balanced than the 2013 version. There’s talent on campus but nobody separated themselves during the spring, opening the door for a freshman like Michiah Quick to step on campus and into the lineup this fall.

C: Ty Darlington (Jr.)

G: Dionte Savage (Sr.), Nila Kasitati (Jr.), Tony Feo (Sr.), Adam Shead (Sr.), Tyler Evans (Sr.)

T: Tyrus Thompson (Sr.), Daryl Williams (Sr.), Josiah St. John (Sr.)

Darlington has been groomed to replace All-Big 12 center Gabe Ikard and could slide into the starting lineup with ease. Nonetheless, adding competition at this position would help the Sooners. OU is fairly deep at guard and tackle which should allow competition for playing time to help everyone improve. Williams is the anchor of the entire offensive line and should be one of the Big 12’s top tackles this fall. The Sooners should have one of the better offensive lines in the Big 12.

DEFENSE

DE: Charles Tapper (Jr.), Geneo Grissom (Sr.), Matt Dimon (So.)

DT: Jordan Phillips (Jr.) or Chuka Ndulue (Sr.), Jordan Wade (So.)

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsSooners linebacker Dominique Alexander emerged as a playmaker as a freshman.
OU’s defensive line could be one of the most disruptive and deepest in the nation. The Sooners should easily go six or seven deep along the defensive line, particularly if Phillips returns to his early 2013 form after suffering a back injury last season. Tapper and Grissom have the ability to be disruptive against anyone, and the overall depth on the roster should allow OU to come at offenses in waves with fresh bodies rotating throughout games. If OU makes a national title run, the defensive line will likely be the driving force.

LB: Dominique Alexander (So.), Frank Shannon (Jr.), Eric Striker (Jr.), Jordan Evans (So.), Devante Bond (Jr.)

Striker could be the Big 12’s best pass rusher, Alexander has the potential to be one of the Big 12’s best before his career is over, Evans could take a major step forward as a sophomore and Bond impressed as a junior college transfer this spring. If Shannon returns to good standing after missing part of spring due to personal issues, this is a good, experienced group. OU’s linebackers are one of the main reasons its defense could be the most athletic and versatile in the conference this fall.

CB: Zack Sanchez (So.), Julian Wilson (Sr.), Dakota Austin (So.), Stanvon Taylor (So.), Cortez Johnson (Jr.)

Here’s where things get interesting for the defense. Wilson returns as the starting nickelback and a productive veteran in the secondary. Sanchez is solid and took his game to another level this spring as he strives to be the type of coverage cornerback that teams don’t want to test. But the Sooners need someone to step up on the opposite side of the field with Austin ending the spring as a starter but remaining untested. No matter who wins the job, they will be picked on repeatedly until they prove they aren’t the weak link of the secondary. Defensive back is one of the few unsettled and unproven spots on the entire roster.

S: Quentin Hayes (Sr.), Hatari Byrd (So.), Ahmad Thomas (So.)

Hayes was quietly one of the better safeties in the Big 12 in 2013. He was productive with 75 tackles and solid in coverage. Byrd and Thomas have matured and started to develop as sophomores and should be key contributors this fall. Nonetheless, freshman Steven Parker has the talent to step in an earn a role this summer. If Parker is as good as advertised, OU will go two deep with talented options.
Oklahoma fans yearn for the time when Jermaine Gresham was catching long touchdown passes to help knock off Oklahoma State and Texas. Or even James Hanna keeping defenses honest with his forays down the hash mark.

It has been two years since a tight end caught more than three passes in a season at OU, although Trey Millard filled a tight end/fullback role in 2012 and 2013, catching 30 passes in 2012 and 11 passes in 2013.

When you're young you want to blame it on other things. As I've matured I've realized, anywhere you go, they want to play the best players, get the best 11 on the field. And I think I can be one of those [eleven] here.

-- Oklahoma TE Taylor McNamara
The Sooners are hopeful a strong receiving threat emerges this season with Blake Bell, Taylor McNamara, Connor Knight and Isaac Ijalana competing for time at tight end. OU has used players in the role of tight ends, with Millard and Aaron Ripkowski filling the void, during the past two seasons. But a passing threat like Gresham has escaped its grasp.

“There’s just not a lot of Jermaine Greshams running around,” coach Bob Stoops said. “You have to have the right people and they have to be experienced, so when they go on the field they have to be better than another personnel grouping you might have out there.”

The Sooners’ depth at receiver made wideout-heavy personnel groupings in passing situations the right move during the past two seasons with OU preferring to have Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard working the middle of the field instead of a bigger threat.

As OU builds the offense around Trevor Knight, the desire for a versatile threat at tight end increases thanks to Knight’s run-pass skills.

“It makes it more versatile as an offense,” McNamara said of the use of versatile tight ends. “If you have them in there and don’t know what personnel to put out there, you can run it and throw it so it’s a benefit, for sure.”

And McNamara is hoping to be that guy.

The junior’s development has been overshadowed by Bell’s move to tight end and Ijalana’s recent arrival from the junior college ranks but the California native stepped on campus with plenty of accolades of his own. A four-star signee and Army All-American, a lot was expected from McNamara but he will enter his redshirt sophomore season without much fanfare. Yet, after briefly wondering if OU was the right place for him, McNamara decided he was willing to shoulder the blame for his lack of an impact during his first two years in Norman, Okla.

“When you’re young you want to blame it on other things,” he said. “As I’ve matured I’ve realized, anywhere you go, they want to play the best players, get the best 11 on the field. And I think I can be one of those [11] here.”

His progress as a redshirt freshman brings hope that he can fulfill the promise he brought with him as an early enrollee in the spring of 2012. After a strong showing in bowl preparations, McNamara’s lone catch in crimson and cream is a four-yard reception in the Sooners’ Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.

“The whole year I was working to get better,” he said. “Eventually I got good enough to help the team and get to play a little bit. Getting to play at all was a blessing, it’s a lot more fun when you’re involved.”

This spring is a critical time for McNamara, who at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds brings good size and could become the receiving threat the Sooners have been searching for in recent years.

“I’m here to play,” McNamara said. “I don’t want to sit my whole career here. I want to make an impact.”
Big 12 teams rejoice.

For the first time in four years, Oklahoma faces the proposition of a season without Trey Millard as a critical piece of its offense and special teams.

[+] EnlargeDimitri Flowers
Tom Hauck for Student SportsWhile only a 3-star recruit, Dimitri Flowers' versatility stood out to scouts.
The former Sooner earned a reputation as one of the conference’s most physical and versatile players as a four-year starter and could easily be considered the hardest player to replace in the Big 12. Millard ran like a running back, blocked like an offensive lineman and covered kicks like a linebacker. Locating guys like Millard is nearly an impossible task.

The Sooners hope they found a similar hidden gem in early enrollee Dimitri Flowers. He starred all over the field at San Antonio Churchill, making plays as a running back, tight end and defensive end. Flowers, at 6-foot-1, 234 pounds, has been earmarked for a Millard-type role as a hybrid tight end and running back and is already impressing coaches and teammates with his versatility.

“He’s one of the most skilled, well-rounded guys that I’ve seen come into our program,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “His ability to play in line and in space as an H-back, motion guy, [and] he does a great job of catching the football and he’s extremely bright for a young kid coming into your program.”

Flowers was called “as versatile as any player in high school” by ESPN.com recruiting experts, who rated him as a three-star athlete with “above average” size, speed and strength.

It would be asking a lot for Flowers to step right into the Sooners plan and have a similar impact as Millard, who essentially forced the coaching staff to find an immediate role for him as a true freshman. Fortunately for OU, it doesn’t need him to make an similar impact with former walk-on Aaron Ripkowski already proving he can be a core contributor as a fullback/tight end after Millard missed the end of the 2013 season with a knee injury.

Nonetheless, Flowers still could provide superb depth and play a special teams role this fall, particularly if he makes a smooth transition to college football and can handle the little details that can be the difference between seeing the field or watching from the sideline.

“He came in [as] a really good [player],” sophomore running back Keith Ford said. “He’s adjusted to the speed and the things I’ve seen with the catching the ball and pass blocking, he’s picking it up fast.”

OU used Millard and Ripkowski together at various times in 2012 and 2013 so it’s not out of the question for Flowers to have a role in the Sooners’ offensive plans with a strong showing this spring.

“He’s a really versatile player, very young, but a lot of great qualities,” co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. “A lot of our best players can do a lot of things and he’s showing a lot of versatility on the field. He’s green as grass, he doesn’t know much but he’s a good athlete and he can play for us so we’re excited to have him.”
In the next few weeks leading into signing day it’s a great time to take a position-by-position glance at Oklahoma’s returning roster. This series, called State of the Position, will look at the playmakers, up-and-comers and current commitments or targets at each position for the Sooners as recruiting heats up during these final weeks before signing day on Feb. 5. On Thursday, we take a closer look at the tight end/fullback position, a spot that has essentially become interchangeable thanks to the talents of departing senior Trey Millard.

[+] EnlargeRipkowski
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe Sooners return Aaron Ripkowski, and not much else, at fullback/tight end.
Starter/contributors: FB Aaron Ripkowski (Jr.)

Ripkowski was a critical replacement when Millard was sidelined midway through the season. The former walk-on has been an impact player since his freshman season and should continue to play a major role in OU’s offense while lining up all over the field.

On the cusp: TE Taylor McNamara (So.)

McNamara actually saw the field during OU’s 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory and (gasp!) caught a pass. OU’s tight ends finished the season with three receptions for 33 yards, including McNamara’s 4-yard reception against Alabama. But, McNamara’s Sugar Bowl performance aside, don’t expect OU’s tight ends to become a big part of the offense until it actually happens. The coaching staff has been talking about it for years.

Sophomore tight end Sam Grant is another option at the position but didn't become a key contributor during his redshirt freshman year.

On the recruiting trail: ATH Dimitri Flowers (San Antonio/Churchill), TE Carson Meier (Tulsa, Okla./Union), TE Isaac Ijalana (Mount Holly, N.J./Pierce College)

Ijalana is a junior college signee who is a solid prospect at the tight end position. He should give the Sooners an immediate option as they try to replace Millard and Brannon Green.

Millard’s excellence and versatility sent the Sooners on a search for a player who could aim to mimic his ability. Flowers is the result of that search and OU hopes Flowers can develop into a player who can line up at fullback and tight end with equal effectiveness. The question is how soon can he start to slide into a similar role.

Meier, the No. 277 player in the ESPN 300, is a prototypical tight end. He brings good size, good ball skills and the ability to block effectively. He’s the exact type of well-rounded tight end prospect the Sooners will need to have if they hope to make the tight end position a productive part of their offense.

Overall Grade: D

Ripkowski kept this grade from being an F. He’s physical, experienced and talented, so the Sooners would really be up a creek without him returning. OU has minimal experience and no proven playmakers after Ripkowski. Neither McNamara nor Grant have never made a significant impact and the rest are newcomers. But if Flowers, a unique prospect, can develop into a Millard clone, it might not matter what else happens with the rest of the group. One of those prospects emerging as one of OU’s top 11 offensive players and forcing their way on to the field next season is the best case scenario for the Sooners.
NORMAN, Okla. -- The look of despair and disappointment on the face of Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard spoke volumes.

It’s rare that a win over a Top 10 team feels so bittersweet.

[+] EnlargeTrey Millard
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiTrey Millard, who has played running back, fullback and tight end in his time at Oklahoma, has 13 career touchdowns.
Ikard was excited his team had just knocked off then-No. 10 Texas Tech, 38-30, last Saturday, yet the entire mood of the conversation changed when the senior was asked about the season-ending injury to fellow senior Trey Millard, who tore two knee ligaments -- including his ACL -- on special teams.

“My heart is just broken for him,” Ikard said. “He’s one of those guys who just loves the game, and for it to happen on something like getting rolled up on a kickoff, that’s tough to swallow for everyone on this team.”

It's heartbreaking because Millard returned for his senior season to finish his career with his teammates as a critical cog in the OU machine. His numbers --17 carries for 97 yards, 11 receptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns -- don’t come close to representing his value. Millard often paved the way for an OU rushing offense that averages 234 rushing yards per game, and he has been the Sooners’ top special teams player for the past three seasons, according to coach Bob Stoops.

“He’s the best player on our football team,” Ikard said. “He’s the most versatile person on our football team. He’s the heart and soul of this team, and he’s one of the leaders.”

Millard, who has played 48 career games for OU, had the ability to line up at fullback or tight end and excel during his four-year career.

“All you can say about Trey is he is the best in the country in doing what he does,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “It’s been that way for a long time. We’re going to miss him. Other guys are going to have to step up and play well.”

As the Sooners strive to play without Millard it will be like trying to hang a picture without a hammer. It’s still doable but you’ll have to get creative to find a way to get the job done and your task just got much more difficult.

One player won’t be able to replace Millard. Tight end Brannon Green and fullback Aaron Ripkowski will be asked to fill the void on offense, with several candidates likely to fill his role on special teams. A huge portion of Millard’s value was in his ability to do so many things, thus allowing the Sooners to adapt without changing personnel.

And, with Baylor looming next on OU’s schedule, Millard’s injury couldn’t come at a worst time. The Sooners will undoubtedly try to control the ball against the Bears, leaning on its running game to help stop Baylor’s high-powered attack by keeping Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk on the sidelines.

“We’re going to miss him a lot,” Ikard said. “We’re going to have to make some serious adjustments on the offensive side of the football without No. 33 out there.”

The Sooners have used two tight end formations, featuring Millard and Ripkowski, to have running success this season. After Millard was injured early in the fourth quarter, OU used Green and Ripkowski in those two tight end formations and had success with 16 fourth-quarter rushes for 81 yards (5.06 yards per carry) against the Red Raiders.

Even with that success, Stoops isn’t looking forward to the task of replacing Millard.

“That’s tough because Trey is so versatile,” Stoops said. “We don’t have anybody else like that nor does anybody else. He’s pretty unique.”
During the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we will analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term impact. Starting with No. 1 Kendal Thompson, the series will follow the roster numerically through our final analysis of No. 99 Chaz Nelson.

No. 48 Aaron Ripkowski
Fullback, 6-foot-1, 260 pounds, junior


Position breakdown: Running back 

February, 13, 2013
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NORMAN, Okla. -- One area where the Sooners will suffer little attrition from 2012 is running back. Yes, Dominique Whaley has graduated, but Whaley didn’t contribute to the backfield after the first three games as he struggled to regain his agility from a broken ankle he suffered in 2011.

The rest of the backfield returns intact, and that includes Damien Williams. The former juco transfer had a breakout first season in Norman, leading the Sooners with 946 rushing yards while scoring 11 touchdowns and averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Williams would have easily surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier had an ankle sprain not slowed him in November.

[+] EnlargeDamien Williams
Brandon Wade/Getty ImagesDamien Williams ran for nearly 1,000 yards in his first season at Oklahoma and will combine with Brennan Clay for much of OU's rushing production.
Williams gives the Sooners one of the top returning backs in the league. OU also returns Brennan Clay, who proved to be a solid No. 2 back during his junior season. Filling in for Williams at Iowa State, Clay rushed for 157 yards while averaging 6.5 yards a carry. Clay also scored the game-winning overtime touchdown against Oklahoma State.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Overlooked in the aftermath of Texas A&M’s 41-13 thrashing of Oklahoma was a bit of good news for the Sooners.

[+] EnlargeTrey Millard
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesTrey Millard had 33 rushes and caught 30 passes for the Sooners in his junior season.
Fullback Trey Millard announced he would be returning to OU for his senior season after flirting with the idea of declaring for the 2013 NFL draft. The junior’s decision is great news for the Sooners as Millard should be one of the core members of the squad in 2013.

Since he stepped on campus as a freshman, Millard has been one of the most productive players on the team. He’s arguably the Sooners best special teams player and one of the best playmakers on offense although tends to be under utilized in the Sooners system.

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Which Sooners might bolt early for NFL? 

December, 10, 2012
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NORMAN, Okla. -- After the 2007 season, neither Malcolm Kelly, Curtis Lofton nor Reggie Smith were projected as first-round picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

But all three were top-three round picks. And that was enough to convince them to leave Oklahoma a year early and enter the draft.

This year, the Sooners again don’t appear to have any underclassmen that project as first-round picks. But up to four different underclassmen Sooners could be taken in the first three rounds if they to decide to come out in January. SoonerNation breaks down the four players who might be mulling their futures over the next month:

[+] EnlargeTony Jefferson
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesJunior safety leads the Sooners in tackles this season with 113.
Free safety Tony Jefferson

The case for leaving: Jefferson has indicated before that he might jump to the NFL if he projected to be a relatively high pick. Mel Kiper Jr. wrote earlier this month that both Jefferson and Florida safety Matt Elam “have a shot” to go in the first round. “Both can contribute all over the field. Cover, tackle, get into the backfield -- you name it,” Kiper wrote. Given that Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro ranks as Kiper’s top senior safety on the board, it’s not unthinkable that Jefferson could be the top safety taken. At the least, Jefferson figures to be one of the top five safeties in the draft coming off an All-Big 12 junior season, which would make him no worse than a third-rounder.

The case for staying: As good as Jefferson was this season, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said two weeks ago that Jefferson still has much to work on before reaching his potential. “He does some things that really aggravate you, but he comes back and does so many good things,” Stoops said. “He has a chance to be special, and getting him to understand the little things — the finer things that make players great — has always been my struggle with Tony.” That doesn’t exactly sound like an endorsement that Jefferson is ready for the NFL. Scouts Inc. believes that Jefferson specifically needs to improve his instincts and recognition. With a strong senior season that improves on the little things like that, Jefferson could possibly lock up a place in the first round.

Who would replace him: If Jefferson left, the Sooners would be in a pickle at safety, considering senior Javon Harris is gone, too. Quentin Hayes was going to be OU’s third back safety this season, but that was before he was suspended indefinitely in the summer. Top backup Jesse Paulsen is gone after this season, too. The Sooners could bump Gabe Lynn to Jefferson’s spot, and move Julian Wilson to nickelback. Of course, they might need Wilson at safety, as well. With cornerback Demontre Hurst also graduating the secondary could face a major transition if Jefferson bolted, too.

Wide receiver Kenny Stills

The case for leaving: Like Jefferson, Stills has indicated that he might leave early if he projected relatively high pick. Stills doesn’t have a shot at the first round like Jefferson, but ESPN Insider currently projects Stills out to be a mid-to-late third-round pick. Stills has had a banner junior season, and has displayed tremendous hands around the end zone. Stills plays bigger than his 6-foot, 190-pound frame and would test well enough in the agility and speed drills at the combine. If he came back, he’s also have to deal with a QB transition that could affect his stats.

The case for staying: There’s no doubt that Stills could improve his stock with another year. Stills’ Scouts Inc. evaluation doesn’t give him an “exceptional” grade in any area, and gives him a “below average” intangibles grade. If Stills showed leadership next season with a new quarterback and improved his skills across the board, he could become one of the top receivers on the board.

Who would replace him: The Sooners have several young options at receiver. Trey Metoyer and Durron Neal could be ready to step into the starting lineup next season on the outside. OU also has Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard coming back in the slot next season.

Cornerback Aaron Colvin


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Film review: OU 51, OSU 48 

November, 25, 2012
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Many Sooners called it one of the best games of their careers. Others called it special. No matter what words are chosen to describe Bedlam, one thing is certain. This year's Bedlam was unlike any other.

Oklahoma knocked off Oklahoma State, 51-48, in overtime at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday to keep the Sooners' Big 12 championship hopes alive. Several big plays changed the game but here are five critical plays that helped decide Bedlam.

[+] EnlargeJalen Saunders
William Purnell/Icon SMIAfter missing the first few games of the season, Jalen Saunders has provided a spark for the Sooners.
Jamarkus McFarland’s first-down stop after OU’s turnover on downs

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Film review: Oklahoma 52, Kansas 7 

October, 21, 2012
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It would have been easy for Oklahoma to suffer a letdown against Kansas. Instead, Jayhawks fans wish the Sooners would would have let up in OU’s 52-7 win at Owen Field on Saturday. Quarterback Landry Jones was superb, the OU defense was dominant and the special teams did something that had never been done in program history.

Receiver Kenny Stills' 44-yard touchdown catch

The Sooners' first touchdown pretty much sums up the game. After a play-action fake to running back Damien Williams, Jones threw a beautiful pass to Stills right over the shoulder of KU cornerback JaCorey Shepherd. Three of Stills' six catches came on that scoring drive.

A closer look at the play shows why this game turned into a blowout:
[+] EnlargeCasey Walker
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesDefensive tackle Casey Walker scooped up a fumble and ran it 45 yards.

  • Shepherd gave Stills a 10-yard cushion and still got beaten deep.

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The Sooners used middle linebacker Jaydan Bird as a fullback in the Belldozer in their final two games last season after Aaron Ripkowski suffered a back injury. They apparently liked what they saw from Bird’s blocking because on Saturday, OU used Bird as a fullback in the “Diamond” formation along with fullback Trey Millard and a running back.

“Jaydan’s excellent in that,” Bob Stoops said. “Everyone forgets he’s a high school running back, and a good one. He does a good job in there. He did it last year for us, too. That’s why we had to change his number from 55 to 44, so we can throw the ball to him once in a while.”

Bird remains Tom Wort’s backup at middle linebacker, and has been getting his work at fullback on the side.

“Jaydan’s a bright guy. He handles it well,” Stoops said. “The times they get him in meetings or if he comes up during the day, they school him up on what they want him to do, what they’re looking to do that day. He goes over there during practice when they’re working on it.”
During the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. We'll analyze each player’s impact on the program since he arrived on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term impact. Starting with No. 1 Tony Jefferson, the daily series will go in numerical order until our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 48 Aaron Ripkowski
Fullback, 6-foot-2, 255 pounds


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Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12