With all the offseason attention surrounding the Oklahoma Sooners devoted to their vacant starting quarterback position, it's been easy to overlook what should be the strength of the offense in 2013.
In the pass-happy Big 12, where offenses regularly throw for over 300 yards a game without batting an eyelash, it's easy to forget deeper success is found by running the football. With a veteran offensive line and a stable of running backs that includes four seniors, the Sooners plan to do just that.
While talented guys like Damien Williams, Brennan Clay and Roy Finch (for completely different reasons) steal a lot of the headlines, it's arguably the team's best player that deserves the most attention in Oklahoma's backfield.
RELATED: Oklahoma Media Day Notebook
Fullback Trey Millard has been showcasing his blocking skills since he arrived in Norman in 2010, but it's his ability with the ball in his hands that has some clamoring for more touches in his senior season.
"As a ball carrier, you definitely want as many carries as they're going to give you; you're going to take them," Millard said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. "I'm happy just playing in the role I have. We've had a lot of success."
Millard has averaged 6.5 yards per carry over the past two seasons and has a career average of 10.2 yards per reception. This past season, he had a combined 58 touches for 501 yards and four touchdowns.
"I think he has a great set of skills," OU center Gabe Ikard said. "It's one of those things where it appears that when he touches the ball, good things happen. That's how it is."
Even though Millard is certainly worthy—maybe even deserving—of 10-15 touches per game, he's not one to complain when those touches don't come.
"You kind of just talk to coaches and stuff like that," Millard said. "Coaches have told me they want to get me carries and things like that so I've never really asked for it, they've just kind of told me. In some cases it doesn't happen and some game plans it's not in the cards. I'm not bitter or anything like that; it's what's good for the team."
When you're arguably the best player on your team, you normally have ascended to that position for being accomplished in more than one skill. As good as Millard's running and catching skills are, his blocking is even better. That fact is not lost on OU coach Bob Stoops.
"If you watch him even on the (plays) where he isn't carrying, he's knocking the heck out of somebody or chasing someone," Stoops said. "And he's our best special teams guy.
"So who's going to take that place if he's running it? Who's blocking, doing the things he usually does? It's fair to say we've done a pretty good job of giving him opportunities and having success with the way he plays. I don't know if we'll deter from it very much because I don't know if you can."
Ikard felt the same way as Stoops, saying most people who want Millard to touch the ball more don't fully appreciate everything he does without the ball in his hands.
"People need to realize you've got to balance all the other things he does on the field with getting him the football and making sure he stays fresh in the game and not being gassed the entire time," Ikard said. "As long as we get him some touches and let him do what he does when it comes to blocking, he's just going to be a great player like he has been."
Millard has plenty of goals this season, one of which is to become an All-American, something that will require him to do much more than simply carry the football.
"They don't have a fullback spot so I want to be good enough in everything that they're forced to put me on as a running back or a tight end or something else," Millard said.
Stoops has consistently spoken of the importance of getting Millard touches the past several seasons. Tuesday, when asked in a roundabout way what would happen to the 150 catches now-departed receivers Kenny Stills and Justin Brown hauled in last year, Stoops turned to Millard and joked he was going to be getting 150 more plays in 2013.
Millard laughed, but even though the exchange was in jest, Stoops can come up with many much worse ideas than giving his senior fullback the ball 150 times in 2013.