By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Losing Trey Millard to a season-ending knee injury transformed Oklahoma’s offense in 2013. It was without a fullback that could also catch and run the ball, as well as playing tight end.
OU adjusted to Millard’s absence late in the season. But the thinking heading into 2014 is they’ve found another fullback with Millard’s attributes.
Freshman Dimitri Flowers has turned a lot of heads since enrolling at OU in January. Mainly because the 6-foot-1, 240-pound fullback is reminiscent of Millard.
“It’s eerie to see how similar those guys actually are, even just the way they walk on the field. He’s not playing like a freshman and certainly not like a guy that enrolled in January,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said on Wednesday. “He’s got a special ability and special talent and it’s going to be fun to see him grow through training camp and how much we can use him and how versatile he’ll be able to be for us as a freshman.”
Finding a fullback for the 2014 season was not a make-or-break proposition. Aaron Ripkowski played at a high level in the last four games, playing both fullback and tight end. Having another 240-pound athlete that can line up at multiple spots gives OU more offensive diversity.
Much like Millard proved in 2010, Flowers is going to make an impact in his initial season.
“He’s given every indication that he’ll be ready for it,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.
Preparing for more tight ends: OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said last week that the Sooners faced more offenses using pass-catching tight ends than in 2012 and expects that trend to continue.
Bob Stoops believes that’s been a response to OU shifting to a 3-4 defense. He’s fine with defending more tight ends.
“You have a tight end in there now instead of a 4.3 (40-yard dash) receiver,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll take that trade and sometimes you won’t. It depends who the tight end is.”
Shepard’s time to shine: The coaching staff hasn’t hid that Sterling Shepard should be OU’s No. 1 receiver next season. Receivers coach Jay Norvell believes Shepard, who caught seven touchdowns last season, can be one of the best in the country.
“He's really had a great spring — more explosive, better route runner, really being more consistent in every way. I really challenged him to be a leader and take the next step,” Norvell said. “He’s had a great spring. He's graded out as high as anybody I've had in the spring so far. That’s a credit to him and his character and how he pushes himself so he's had a really good spring. He's got to continue to push himself. He's got to be his own motivation every day when he comes out here.”
Open practice for students scheduled: Students are invited to attend the team portion of OU’s practice next Thursday. The first 500 students will receive a free hot dog and drink. While supplies last, all remaining hot dogs and drinks will be available for 50 cents. Students must have a valid OU student ID to attend.
At the end of practice, students can go onto the field to participate in drills, meet and take pictures with student athletes and have a chance to kick a field goal. No autographs will be allowed.
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