Oklahoma Sooners: Fozzy Whittaker

We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the running backs ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

1. Texas A&M

The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael averaged 6 yards per carry before a torn ACL ended his season.
2. Missouri

Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.

3. Oklahoma State

Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.

4. Baylor

Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.

5. Texas

Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.

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OU's Reynolds finds Red River redemption

October, 13, 2011
Late in the second quarter of Oklahoma's 55-17 victory over Texas last weekend, Longhorns standout Fozzy Whittaker had returned a kickoff 100 yards to stifle OU's momentum and cut its lead to 27-10.

Four players later, Texas brought a big blitz to try to get to Sooners quarterback Landry Jones, whom the Horns sacked just once.

[+] EnlargeJaz Reynolds
Zumapress/Icon SMIOklahoma receiver Jaz Reynolds set a career high with six catches against Texas.
OU was ready. It had a screen play called to Jaz Reynolds. Jones dumped it off, and Reynolds caught a quick glance at the sideline.

"I looked over at Mack Brown and his hands were on his head. And he was pissed, man," Reynolds said. "That was a good feeling. I was like, Yeah, I got him."

Reynolds turned the catch into a 16-yard play to reach midfield. Two plays later, the Sooners were in the end zone and led 34-10 at halftime.

"Next thing you know, you look up and we’re scoring and it was an even better feeling," Reynolds said.

It was a great moment in a day full of them. He racked up 92 yards receiving. His six catches were a career high.

Before last season's Red River Rivalry, though, Reynolds endured a career low.

He'd already been suspended for a game for academic reasons and hadn't appeared in a game to that point, but a rabble-rousing tweet suggesting people from Austin commit suicide cost him the rest of his season, with a stern suspension from Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

The lesson was painful.

"I’m being watched at all times. No matter what I’m doing, somebody’s watching you," Reynolds said. "I have to be more selective in what I say and how I handle myself on and off the field to get my spot back. Kenny [Stills] came in and was playing well and Dejuan [Miller] and Trey [Franks] were playing well. It wasn’t just going to be given to me."

But Reynolds earned it. And a year after being a black eye for the team heading into its biggest rivalry, he was one of its biggest assets.

That status might only grow.

"A year ago there were quite a few more drops. He’s just been more and more consistent catching it, route running, being more competitive. Everything," Stoops said. "That’s also understandable now that he’s a junior, he’s getting older and he’s just grown in the position and he’s doing really well."

Part of that growth, both on and off the field, has been a result of working every day next to one of the best in the game.

"I think [Ryan Broyles] rubbed off on all the players in the receiver room," Stoops said. "Coach Jay Norvell does a great job coaching them, but when you’re looking at an example in Ryan and how serious he takes it, he watches tape, he understands coverages, how he’s working it, his route running. All of it. And they see how hard he works at it, so I think it’s rubbed off on all those guys."

After Saturday's game, Reynolds rejoined Twitter, while several of his teammates have ramped up their use of the site in the past year.

"You won’t hear much from me. The only time you’ll hear from me is whenever y'all interview me," Reynolds said. "Or whatever I do on the field."

Everyone heard him loud and clear on Saturday.


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