By Clay Horning
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – The annual Red-White spring game is a skirmish without context and there’s really no way around it.
In an age of closed practices, holding out your stars, putting blue jerseys on your quarterbacks and throttling back the playbook because an opponent might pick something up watching it, just how much can anybody hope to glean?
Indeed, how much could anybody learn in the first place. It is, after all, Sooners playing Sooners.
On the other hand …
Because Trey Metoyer caught six passes for 122 yards and, more telling to me, sitting in the press box without anybody explaining what was happening on the field and too high up to recognize uniform numbers very easily and, frankly, too disinterested in whatever this year’s Red-White scoring formula was, I wrote Metoyer’s name down more than anybody else’s.
I’m terrible with uniform numbers but every time somebody made a big, leaping, adjust-in-the-air competitive catch, I looked hard to get the number, saw that it was 17, glanced at my roster and again realized it was Metoyer (except for the one time I realized it was Durron Neal).
There was that, as well as the moment I looked down and saw a vaguely familiar figure darting through the defense, saw that it was No. 22, and knowing who it was without consulting the roster, wrote this down in my notebook:
I might have written down, Hey, didn’t you used to be Roy Finch?, but figured just thinking it was enough.
Everybody’s interested in the quarterbacks and when you have three vying for the job, everybody should be. But on a team whose most proven returning skill player might be Trey Millard, who has wrung up a grand total of 1,040 (441 rushing, 599 receiving) yards from scrimmage in three seasons, maybe a couple of guys once destined to be the next big thing yet never panned out are a couple of guys worth looking at.
Metoyer, of course, is one more unproductive season and one more great Red-White experience from being derisively dubbed “Mr. Spring Game.”
As for Finch, if only Bob Stoops, instead of saying “We love Roy” in the past, had instead said what offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said Saturday, we might have understood.
“Roy is more reliable because of what he has been able to do on a consistent basis in January and February during the offseason,” Heupel said. “He’s doing what we ask him to do in the meeting room, on the practice field, in the weight room and in the classroom. He’s maturing as a person.
“To play at a high level, you have to be mature as an individual. He’s doing a lot of things the right way that give you hope that he’ll be able to have a bigger role than a year ago.”
Recall that Metoyer looked like OU’s best receiver heading into last season, even in front of Kenny Stills based on the last half of Stills’ sophomore season. But it didn’t happen for him. When he wasn’t running routes out of bounds, Metoyer managed to catch a whopping 17 passes for 148 yards.
Stoops says this is a different Metoyer.
“I see a guy that’s more sure of himself, that has been more consistent in practice and in everything that we’re doing,” he said. “I just feel like he has a better grasp of everything we’re asking him to do now than he had then.”
Heupel, who in a big change may now be the top truthteller on the OU staff, was more to the point.
“I said this a year ago,” he said. “If (Metoyer) is going to read the headlines and see what the people are saying right now, he won’t be prepared when the fall comes. Ultimately you have to prepare and work every day to give yourself an opportunity.”
So now we know what happened to Metoyer and Finch. A big head, poor discipline and lack of maturity has derailed many a promising prospect.
Their talent, though, hasn’t gone anywhere.
If they’re who they can be, Jalen Saunders should at least have a strong No. 2 to steal attention in opponent’s secondaries and, just maybe, Damien Williams isn’t the Sooners’ best returning running back (you know, other than a fullback like Millard).
What happened at the Red-White? It’s so hard to know, but a couple of guys made an impression.
Perhaps they will again.