Practice report: New RB can move the pile

Finding ways to take advantage of the explosiveness of Roy Finch is a priority for Oklahoma heading into the Sooners season opener against UTEP at 9:30 p.m. CT at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas.

The junior running back has been working at slot receiver for OU during preseason camp. And he’s getting more and more comfortable in the slot.

“I’m excited,” Finch said. “I’ve been working hard in the slot. Whenever you get the ball in the slot, normally, you’re in space already. There’s a lot of room to work.”

The Sooners are looking to have use Finch in different ways this season than they have in his first two years.

“They have a package for me this year,” Finch said. “I talked to Coach Norvell and he doesn’t want me to be a guy who just gets reverses, he wants me to be a complete player.”

Asked if it’s more 50-50 or 80-20 slot receiver to running back, for his potential time on the field, Finch said he expects to spend more time in the slot.

“I think it’s more 80-20,” he said. “We have Dom (Dominique Whaley) and Damien Williams, we have feature backs. I feel like they really want me to focus not the slot and get really good at it.”

Finch is a potential terror in the slot with his quickness and open field moves. If a team tries to cover him with a linebacker or safety, the Sooners should have the advantage in that matchup. The dynamic running back/slot receiver could emerge as an “X factor” for OU in 2012.

• Heading into the opener, Sooners offensive coordinator Josh Heupel doesn’t have a set goal for number of plays run by the OU offense on Saturday.

“It depends on the flow of the game, each one has it’s own identity,” Heupel said. “We try to push (tempo) but each one is different.”

The Sooners averaged 80.92 plays per game in 13 contests in 2011.

After Tuesday’s practice, Heupel was happy with the tempo of the offense.

“Today was a really good day, guys competed at a high level,” he said. “We challenged them yesterday to do that, you have to win on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to give yourself a chance to win on Saturday.”

OU’s high tempo offense consistently creates problems for defenses as they struggle to line up, focus and matchup with the Sooners skill players. If the Sooners can approach their average play per game number from 2011, it could be a great sign for Saturday and beyond.

• For the first time this preseason, junior-college transfer running back Damien Williams met reporters. What kind of game does he bring to the offense?

“I like running inside,” Williams said. “But I can run outside, catch the ball – I can do everything.”

Teammates, however, have raved about Williams’ inside running the most.

“He’s really physical,” Finch said. “He can really move the pile.”

Williams said running backs coach Cale Gundy hasn’t disclosed how he’ll rotate in with Dominique Whaley and Brennan Clay. But don’t be surprised if Brennan Clay is used as the third-down while Williams the power back behind starter Dominiue Whaley.

• Offensive line coach James Patton broke down the interior offensive line rotation going into the opener. Nila Kasitati is Patton’s top reserve at either guard position, although Kasitati has been getting his reps at left guard. True freshman

Ty Darlington, meanwhile, is Gabe Ikard’s backup at center. Patton said he has been impressed with Darlington’s “smarts and toughness” all preseason. Patton is hoping for opportunities to get Kasitati, Darlington and Austin Woods – who is the third option at guard or center – some work during the early part of the season.

“It’s all about game experience,” Patton said. “Ben Habern, Tyler Evans, those guys played a lot of football. It’s about getting game experience. Nothing like game feel.”

• The month of August has been a whirlwind for Penn State transfer Justin Brown. Tuesday, Brown said one of most important factors in transferring to another school was that he could still graduate with a Penn State degree.

“I wasn’t going to come down here if I couldn’t graduate from Penn State,” Brown said. “I spent three-and-a-half years there. It was important to me.”

Brown said he’s been keeping an eye on his former team this preseason.

“I tell you what, they’re gonna do a lot better than people think,” Brown said.

While nostalgic, Brown is excited about being in Norman. His favorite thing about Oklahoma? Raising Cane's chicken. His least favorite thing? The heat. Wait until he gets a taste of El Paso.

• Despite saying he expected to hear back Tuesday, Bob Stoops said he still had no update on wide receiver Jalen Saunders, who is waiting to see if he is granted a transfer waiver by the NCAA to play this season.

Whether Saunders is eligible this season or not, wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said OU fans should be excited about what he brings to the slot.

“He has an incredible feel for it,” said Norvell, pointing to Saunders’ savvy and vision.

Saunders also has tremendous speed. If he’s granted a waiver, he’ll instantly become a big part of the OU receiving rotation. If not, look for him to vie for a starting role next season.