NORMAN — Whether Oklahoma is playing with or without a tight end is up for debate. Special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Jay Boulware said Monday night the way OU used Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski earlier this season and the way they used Ripkowski and Brannon Green against Iowa State qualifies.
“Just because the guy had a fullback title and he also totes the mail for us, doesn’t mean that the offense hasn’t been playing with a tight end,” Boulware said. “The offense has been playing with a tight end. We’re in tight end sets. You talk to our opponents, they’ll tell you they’re in a lot of 12 (one running back and two tight end) personnel sets. Two tight ends, not just one. So we’ve been playing with one all year.”
The development of Ripkowski has been one of the positives for the offense this season. Before Trey Millard’s season-ending knee injury on Nov. 2 against Texas Tech, the Sooners had already begun using the pair in a fullback-tight end combination.
It’s continued in the two games since with tight end Brannon Green joining Ripkowski on the field in many sets. But it’s Ripkowski that’s grown as a skill player.
Kendal Thompson’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Ripkowski was the first time since the 2011 season opener that a tight end caught a touchdown pass. Ripkowski lined up next to the left tackle. By every definition, he was a tight end on the play.
He’ll play there more when the 22nd-ranked Sooners (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) face Kansas State (6-4, 4-3) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
“Rip has continued to grow throughout the year. We’ve used him in a lot of different ways. You’ve seen us use him more and give him more plays at the tight end position than he has early in the year,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “He continues to develop as an in-line guy. He’s a great fullback off the ball, a true fullback.”