Sooners still searching for Griffin's replacement

Updated: August 6, 2003, 8:16 PM ET

NORMAN, Okla. -- The smallest man on the team carried a huge load for the Oklahoma Sooners last season.

But now that Quentin Griffin has moved on to the NFL, the Sooners enter preseason practices with the running back position still up for grabs. The unsettled situation begs this question: how hard could it be to fill the shoes of a guy who was just 5-foot-7?

"Replacing Quentin is very difficult to do," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Wednesday at media day. "He was special, and we've always known that."

Competing for the bulk of the carries this season will be sophomore Kejuan Jones and senior Renaldo Works. Those two have combined for 1,438 career rushing yards, still a bit shy of Griffin's total of 1,884 yards last season.

Griffin was named to the All-Big 12 team at year's end, finishing with the second-best single-season rushing performance in school history. He ended his career as OU's all-time leader in receptions and fourth on the career rushing charts.

Thing is, not much was expected of Griffin before his breakout senior season.

"It's funny now that everybody says that" replacing Griffin is difficult, Stoops said. "A year ago, the question was would he be able to keep his job."

He did, holding off Jones and Works to run his way into the hearts of Sooners fans with his durability and shiftiness. Griffin went on to become a fourth-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos.

Now Jones and Works are preparing to continue a battle for the starting spot that went unresolved in spring practices. Stoops doesn't expect much of a drop-off from Griffin, although neither player has the skill for turning draws into big plays. At least not yet.

"We've got guys that we feel are capable," Stoops said. "Hopefully they'll be able to pick up where (Griffin) left off."

Jones resembles Griffin in size, but not in style. The 5-9, 187-pounder was the Sooners' short-yardage runner last season, bruising his way to 607 yards and an OU freshman-record 14 touchdowns.

"I can do a little bit of what Q did," Jones said. "But I love contact, even though I'm small for that."

Works, at a brawny 6-1, 220 pounds, prefers to run around opponents. In a 37-27 win over Alabama last season, Works sparked the Sooners' fourth-quarter rally by turning two shovel passes into long gains. After that, he was rarely a part of the offense again.

This year, Works simply hopes to get a chance to contribute.

"I've played behind some great people in my career," Works said. "I wouldn't mind alternating."

Senior quarterback Jason White, who shared the backfield with Griffin for a couple of years, said he's confident that either guy can get the job done.

"They've got great potential -- it'll be interesting to see how they battle it out," White said. "With Quentin, we really felt comfortable back there. But (Jones and Works) have got the potential to be as great as Quentin was."< SOONER NOTES: Senior safety Brandon Everage, facing a misdemeanor charge for marijuana possession, will continue to practice with the team at least until an Aug. 15 trial date, Stoops said. Everage was arrested Feb. 12. He faces up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Everage had been suspended from the team in the winter and spring, but will likely play this season. "He has earned the opportunity to go through the early parts of two-a-days until we know for sure what's going to happen," Stoops said. ... A popular -- and surprise -- player at media day was fourth-string quarterback Brent Rawls, the talented but troubled sophomore from Shreveport, La. After winding up on the bottom of the preseason depth chart, speculation was that he would likely transfer. "It never came out of my mouth that I was leaving," he said. "I've never been a quitter." ... Highly touted freshman quarterback Tommy Grady wasn't among the players that reported to campus for the start of practices. Grady, of Huntington Beach, Calif., has been ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA and is awaiting a waiver request. Stoops said he's not sure when Grady will be allowed to join the team. ... Also missing was junior-college transfer Chijioke Onyenegecha, who still needs to pass a class at City College of San Francisco to graduate. The road to Norman has been fraught with obstacles for Onyenegecha, who originally signed with Arizona State in the spring. But after an assistant coach left for Michigan, Onyenegecha asked for and was granted a qualified release, which meant he could go anywhere but would have to sit out a year. The NCAA ultimately cleared him to play at OU this season. ... More than 15,000 fans showed up Wednesday for an opportunity to meet Sooners players and coaches. Lines for the event went several blocks around Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and snaked through the bowels of the stadium.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index