By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Adonis Talbert didn’t expect this.
As a sophomore playing behind several Muskogee receivers to begin the year, he’s found himself in an active role on the varsity level.
On an offense that hasn’t had many big plays, he’s had as many as anyone — two TD passes and just last week, another of 33 yards against Jenks that set up what amounted to Muskogee’s only points, a field goal from Preston Soper.
The Jenks game was his first start, as junior Anthony King was out with an injury.
“This was a situation that I wanted to prove myself to the seniors,” Talbert said.
Eventually, he’s proven himself on the practice field too.
“Coming out of the spring I asked my freshman coaches to give me a player inventory of those guys’ strengths and weaknesses and from that you have some you have expectations for,” Muskogee head coach Josh Blankenship said.
“Adonis was not one of those. He flew under the radar and surprised us.”
Injuries after team camp this summer opened the door for Talbert and some other sophomores.
The 5-foot-10, 150-pounder recorded his first touchdown catch in the opener against Sand Springs, a 15-yard strike from Trevor Jiles. It was the only offensive touchdown after the Roughers went in at halftime up 16-13.
In the second district game against Westmoore, his catch at his own 45 on a fake screen and go route covered 76 yards in all as he outran coverage to the end zone.
Then last week, he lined up in trips formation and ran an under route to the Jenks 5. The drive stalled and out came Soper to tack on Muskogee’s only points.
“He didn’t flinch, he didn’t back down,” Blankenship said of Talbert. “You don’t watch him or time him in the 40 or look at him size-wise and think he should be a starting 6A receiver. But you go and watch him in practice and you go watch him on game nights or in practice, he’s right there.
“Maybe in a normal year he’d be on the JV. But he’s stepped up and he hasn’t been scared of the moment. He’s been dependable and even if he’s had a week of practice where he doesn’t catch anything, you throw it to him in a game and he goes 80 yards.”
When you’re a sophomore who wasn’t supposed to be in this position, to do it against Jenks, in your first start, says a lot.
“It was nerve-wracking,” he said. “But I got a couple big blocks and got into the game. I wanted to step up and prove I could do the job.”
He’s worked hard to get to where he is, down to the point of being perhaps a little annoying.
“He bugs you because he’s asking so many questions and constantly asking you to show you to do this or show how to do that,” Blankenship said. “But as a coach, you want to be bugged. It shows an eagerness to learn.”
Talbert admits he’s, well, annoying. So to speak.
“I probably get more confused than anything on what my blocking responsibilities are and who I’m supposed to block on certain plays and formations,” he said.
Going into next year, and looking to expand beyond a role player, that’s one area he plans on getting better educated.
“I want to block way better and get stronger,” he said.
Talbert and company face Putnam City tonight. It’s not certain if he’ll start but he should see plenty of time in the contest which does have a sense of opportunity tied to it.
The Roughers (1-6, 1-4 District 6A-2) who will finish their season at Bixby next week, could dent Putnam City’s postseason hopes with a win. The Pirates are tied for second with Westmoore and Sapulpa at 5-3, 3-2 in district. Sapulpa and Westmoore each have Edison and Broken Arrow, Westmoore in reverse order.
A loss to Muskogee would likely force Putnam City to beat Jenks in week 10.
It’s small consolation for the Roughers, but a chance to impact something.
“I know it’s tough on the seniors that they can’t go out any better, but I also know I want to go out with a bang and leave this year on a good note,” Talbert said.