OU football: Can Austin Stogner continue to emerge as a star for Sooners?

Ryan Aber
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NORMAN — Perhaps no position, outside of quarterback, has been as vital to the success of Lincoln Riley’s offense during his time at OU than the h-back/fullback/tight end spot.

The Sooners’ consistent utilization of players who can fill all of those roles gives Riley plenty of flexibility in lining up in a variety of looks with the same personnel on the field.

The position was once again a key in 2020 and figures to play a major role once again next season.

Four times in 2020, the Sooners had two of the group on the field to start the game.

The Oklahoman’s series of position looks at the Sooners continues with a look at OU’s H-backs, fullbacks and tight ends in 2021:

Season rewind: Austin Stogner was one of the revelations of the early part of the season, becoming a favorite target of Spencer Rattler, especially in the red zone. Stogner had three touchdowns before an injury in early November against Kansas knocked him out until the bowl game. Stogner is more of a true tight end than the other players in the group, though he showed the ability to play the other spots as well. Jeremiah Hall was a steadying influence on the group — and the Sooners’ offense as a whole — and had five touchdown catches, second most on the team behind Marvin Mims. Injury limited Brayden Willis’ effectiveness.

Who’s out: None

Who’s in: None

The take: The Sooners won’t lose anyone from the group — aside from coach Shane Beamer moving on after being hired as South Carolina’s head coach. Joe Jon Finley takes over for Beamer and inherits a room as deep as any on the team.

Stogner figures to return back to 100% health after an infection in the aftermath of the injury against Kansas left him hospitalized for a time and far from pristine shape for his return in the Cotton Bowl. Before the injury, Stogner showed flashes of what Mark Andrews looked like a few years ago early in his OU career. He was a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses with his combination of size, speed and hands.

Hall’s growth was important for the Sooners, and he figures to continue to play a prominent role.

Mikey Henderson came up big in Bedlam two weeks after Stogner’s injury and he looked like a budding star as well, much in the line of Dimitri Flowers early in his career, though the Sooners appear to be more comfortable in handing the ball to Henderson and not using him exclusively or almost exclusively in a pass-catching role.

Brayden Willis also figures to earn plenty of playing time after being limited to just five games in 2020.

Projected depth chart

H-back/fullback/tight end

Austin Stogner, So., 6-6, 262

Jeremiah Hall, RJr., 6-2, 253

Mikey Henderson, Fr., 6-2, 234

Brayden Willis, Jr., 6-3, 236

OU tight end Austin Stogner (18) runs after a catch against Kansas in a 62-9 win on Nov. 7 in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
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