By John Shinn
Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson always has options when he looks at his play sheet. Sure there’s the option to run the ball or throw, but that’s the easy part.
The hard part is figuring who to have on the field and even tougher is deciding how many tight ends and fullbacks to have out there.
“I think it might be the most talented group we have,” Wilson said.
The individual talent is vast, but it’s the group versatility that gives OU’s offense an added dimension.
There’s the obvious with tight end Jermaine Gresham. His decision to pass on the NFL and return for his senior season was a tremendous boon for the Sooners. He’s solidified himself as the best pass-catching tight end in college football last season. He caught 14 touchdown passes, running his career total to 26. He only needs six more to become the Sooners’ career leader in TD grabs.
Gresham believes this season he will be a complete player. Aside from an offseason spent running routes and catching passes, he worked on everything else that tight ends are called on to do.
“This is the first time I’ve actually done extra work on my blocking. I’m working on the little things now,” Gresham said. “I worked on my foot work and little things like that.”
It’s going to be very hard to take Gresham off the field. Doesn’t matter if its fourth-and-1 or third-and-25. Gresham can make plays.
He’s versatile, and so is everyone else he competes with.
Wilson said Monday that Trent Ratterree would be used more this season. Ratterree doesn’t have all the physical gifts of Gresham, but he can block and he can catch the ball. James Hanna will also get on the field.
“I think James has a chance to complement Jermaine, because Jermaine will get a little gassed in some of the games as fast as we go and as many plays,” Wilson said. “Initially, I thought we could redshirt him but he is probably receiver five or six on our team, as far as making plays. So when we get into some of the spread one-back sets, you will see tight ends out there.”
The fullback spot will also play a sizable role in the Sooners’ offense. Matt Clapp caught three touchdown passes last season and has shown the versatility to line up in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage. He even had seven carries last season and was an all-Big 12 selection by the conference’s coaches.
He’s also spent time in the preseason working at running back.
“I’m learning multiple positions on the offense which really helps our offense out by being able to mess with the defense going from the big set to the wide set to a spread set,” Clapp said. “So it’s really helpful.”
Brandon Crow has moved from linebacker to fullback this season and has already carved out a niche.
“He would be a really good short-yardage goal-line type guy,” Wilson said. “He plays fast, he plays hard.”
Then there’s the question of what OU will do with Brody Eldridge this season. He’s been the most punishing blocker in the Big 12 the last two seasons. He’s worked mainly at center throughout the preseason due to injuries on the offensive line. As linemen become healthier, he’s expected to move back to his fullback/tight end role.
“He could play tight end, but he is the best blocker we got so what he can play 20, 30, 40 plays,” Wilson said.
They’re all decisions Wilson makes when he looks at his play sheet. Because of OU’s wealth of depth at the two spots, He’s never out of options.