By Clay Horning
NORMAN — Remember last season, when Bob Stoops was talking up Trey Millard as one of the Oklahoma's best players what seemed like every week, when Millard was turning in huge game after huge game, making the most of all those opportunities?
Well, the first half of that really happened. But the second half never happened. For the most part, Millard’s opportunities were limited to blocking for Dominique Whaley first and Roy Finch second. And even then, not particularly often.
Millard had 24 carries all of last season, including zero in two games and one in five games. If there was any move to use him more, it came in the last two games, when Millard combined for nine carries against Oklahoma State and Iowa.
He was never not effective, finishing the season with 169 yards on just 24 carries. It was the same thing in the passing game, where he turned 13 receptions into 127 yards, catching three balls in the opener, zero in six of OU’s 13 games and one in two others.
Well, it’s not like Millard’s the only player responsible for the Sooners’ offensive resurgence against Texas Tech and Texas, but it’s clear that the biggest chance in terms of personnel receiving opportunities to gain yards, or even remain on the field to help others gain yards, has been the implementation of a whole lot more Trey Millard.
Even if nobody wants to say so.
On Monday, Bob Stoops was asked if he had to get in the ear of his offensive staff to make it give Millard more chances, the kinds of chances that produced six touches (four carries, two catches) for 45 yards against of total offensive against Texas Tech and eight touches (three carries, five catches) for 164 yards of total offense against Texas.
“No … We’re very aware of what our players can do," he said. “Overall, there were some rhythm issues, not picking up third downs in a game here or there. We didn’t have as many snaps.”
Of course, that’s ridiculous. What Lubbock and Dallas have told is the Sooners didn’t get as many snaps because they weren't using Millard often enough.
Nobody wants to go there.
Nobody wants to say they had their head in the sand for a long time, that there were toughness issues and playing physical issues and running-the-ball issues and change-of-pace-in-the-passing-game issues that all might have been aided by a fullback that had regularly been referred to as one of the best players on the team, even as he was treated as something much different.
Landry Jones sort of said there's a new offensive direction, but he gave co-offensive coordinator and play-caller Josh Heupel the credit, even though Heupel was in a position to do something about it for a long time.
“I think we’re creating more of an identity of what we really want to do and I think coach Heupel is doing a great job getting the game plan, calling plays getting us into a rhythm,” Jones said. “I think we’re coming into our own.”
Anyway, they’re starting to use more of their own.
After crushing Texas 63-21, Millard had a great line. He’d just caught five passes for 119 yards and run the ball three times for 45 and he said, “I knew there was an opportunity to have this type of day … Coach Heupel put me in a lot of good situations.”
You couldn’t help but wonder, all of last season, and three games into this one, if he’d ever had the luxury of feeling the same way.
By figuring Millard out, OU appears to have figured itself out. Because he can do more than one thing, and because he doesn’t have to take a vital playmaker off the field when he enters, defenses have to account for much more than they did prior to his arrival.
Also, it has come late.
It took half a season to come up with a short-yardage plan that worked, and more than a season to come up with something for one of the best players on the team, just ask Bob Stoops, going back to last year.
Good thing somebody put their foot down. Even though we’ll never be told who.