NORMAN, Okla. -- Sooners Illustrated inches closer to No. 1 with today's version of the countdown…
And heading into his sophomore year, Trey Millard, healthy coming from off-season shoulder surgery, is drawing even more praise from his head coach.
"Just he's always been a big, strong guy that can run it so well, but just maturity as much as anything [is what's different this time around]," Stoops said. "He just, you can tell he's [more mature]. Although last year I said it, I think a year ago, he walks around like he's 28 years old.
"You know, he walks out there for his first game at the fullback position, which is a tough, grunt position and, you know, plays it wonderfully well. So, he's a great player and he just seems a little more relaxed this year, you know, now that he knows what to expect."
Not only that, but Stoops and the rest of the Sooner coaching staff have always had a soft spot for fullbacks and/or tight ends like Millard that can operate in different positions, essentially, guys that can make the offense more complex to defend by their versatility.
"Well, when you find guys like that, when you find guys like a Brody Eldridge, you know, who can line up as a fullback, can line up as a tight end, a guy like a J.D. Runnels, those guys are really crafty and really adds to your offense and adds into the multiple formations and sets and personnel settings," said running backs coach Cale Gundy.
Just being mentioned in the same sentence as those guys shows how highly the coaching staff thinks of Millard.
"It's close, Brody was pretty special, absolutely," Stoops said. "Trey runs a little better than both those guys. So, ‘I just got to be honest, J.D.,' Trey's [maybe a better runner], and geez, he's really just different, the way he runs, the way he catches and, you know, his body type."
What's more is the fact that praising these types of players is so rare.
"I may be the only one across the whole world that wants to talk about fullbacks," Stoops said. "You guys don't like to write about them. They're not glamorous to talk about. So, if I give him a little extra credit, I'm sure my guys will forgive me for it. They get enough credit elsewhere."
When looking at the numbers and the ceiling in his game, however, the praise seems well warranted.
He rushed for 74 yards on 24 carries, including three touchdowns a year ago.
That's 3.1 yards per carry, not too shabby for a guy whose main role is to punch it in on the goal line and pick up first downs in very short yardage situations.
Millard also caught 16 passes for 135 yards, including a touchdown reception.
"I like to see myself as a fullback that can do much more than most fullbacks can, more versatile," Millard said.
And he really grasped the blocking schemes toward the end of the season as well.
All of those are reasons why the coaching staff can use him in multiple ways.
"Yeah, like I said, they're just trying to expand my role a little bit," Millard said. "Like I said, coming with that, a little bit more of that tight end and then, of course, more passing and running routes and stuff like that happens with that."
A concept defensive coordinator Brent Venables talks about all the time, which Gundy alluded to, sums it all up.
"Always trying to find ways to get our best players on the field and we've got some guys that we can do that [with], yes," Gundy said.
On the offensive side of the football, Millard is one of those.
And that's why they plan on utilizing him so much in a variety of ways, possibly including different positions.
"It helps us get from different sets, roll out real quickly without the defense being able to change personnel and hit them with some looks that they haven't seen," Millard said.
When the Sooners open up the 2011 season, they'll have an even more experienced fullback than a year ago and a very versatile one.