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Sooners Would Rather Not Wait For Metoyer

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Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images
Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

What hasn’t changed for Trey Metoyer is that he is again the talk of spring football practice at Oklahoma.

What has to change for the Sooners and their potential-packed receiver is everything that follows during the regular season.

For now, though, he is who and what he was a year ago, the one with all the attention and expectations, the next one in the line of Sooners receivers behind Mark Clayton and Mark Bradley, Brandon Jones and Travis Wilson, Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias, Ryan Broyles and – well, it was supposed to be Metoyer, wasn’t it?

It nearly happened in 2012, but it never came together for Metoyer. He started the first four games, but none after that and actually sat out three times. He caught 17 passes for 148 yards and just one touchdown.

We forget, though, he was just a freshman and one who hadn’t played much football the year before.

Not everyone is willing to grant that exception. Whatever the motivation, college football seeks quick fixes and a player who is billed as the future, but didn’t do it yesterday, sometimes is deprived of tomorrow. The next big thing is always one recruiting class away from replacing the one who did too little.

Metoyer might be the type worth waiting for and the Sooners are willing to practice patience, while hoping for Metoyer’s best in 2013.

The Sooners have been anticipating that for a while, first celebrating his signed letter of intent in 2011 and then holding on after Metoyer ended up at Virginia’s Hargrave Military Academy so that he could get his grades in order and play a little prep school football on the side. In addition to the reality he was stuck in a prep school, Metoyer also battled an ankle injury that let him play four games.

You could excuse the Sooners for allowing a delayed delivery. This was their first five-star receiver prospect who learned his trade in Whitehouse, Texas, and caught at least 15 touchdown passes his final three seasons. He exploded as a senior with 105 catches for 1,540 yards and 23 scores and the Sooners would pump their fists knowing that he picked them and not someone else on a long list of the country’s top college programs.

They gladly accepted Metoyer and his tidy transcript in January 2012 and he seemed as though he was making up for lost time last spring. The position was filled with players who had done it before, like Kenny Stills, and players who had been waiting for their time, like Jaz Reynolds. There was no denying Metoyer, though, and he started the spring game and caught six passes for 72 yards.

Suddenly, the graduation loss of Ryan Broyles, the NCAA’s all-time leader with 349 receptions, wasn’t as dire as it once seemed. And when the Sooners suspended three receivers in May, including Reynolds, who’d clicked with quarterback Landry Jones after Broyles’s season-ending injury in 2011, Metoyer’s promise softened the blow.

The fall was not the spring for Metoyer and many things changed around him. The Sooners would be very good, with or without the suspended players, and they were labeled the Big 12’s preseason favorite by the conference coaches while Metoyer was voted the preseason newcomer of the year. Coach Bob Stoops nevertheless sought insurance for the suspensions and for the fact he would be relying on three true freshmen, a big number no matter their talent.

He brought in Justin Brown from scandalized Penn State after Jalen Saunders came over from Fresno State. Brown was allowed immediate eligibility and the Sooners hoped for a waiver for Saunders.

Brown would cut into Metoyer’s playing time and Saunders was granted his eligibility before the fifth game – or the first game Metoyer didn’t start. There was urgency for Oklahoma, which hadn’t impressed in the opener at UTEP and lost the third game at home to Kansas State.

In the spring a quarterback might spread passes to develop depth and help a new player perform like a veteran. In the season, when a senior like Jones is taking his last snaps, when the window for a national title or a BCS bowl closes slowly, quarterbacks aren’t always as judicious. Jones aimed often at Stills, Brown and Saunders and he was rewarded. Starling Shepard, another true freshman, picked things up quicker than Metoyer and caught 45 passes for 631 yards and three scores.

The season transpired without much of a contribution from Metoyer. The Sooners played fast, as fast as anyone else when they pushed the tempo on offense, and that’s possibly the hardest thing for a first-year player to adjust to. It’s a test that stresses a player’s focus and mentality as much as his speed and conditioning. When the body tires, the mind can stagger, too. When the mind staggers, others create distance.

New experiences are no longer excuses. Stills and Brown are gone now and the new Sooners quarterback will look to Shepard, Saunders and Metoyer, as well as Reynolds, who was suspended all of last season. For now, Metoyer has done enough to make his coaches say the sort of things that project an improvement, though they want more consistency so that he proves worthy of starting. Fool them twice, shame on them.

Metoyer has been silent, focused on the side and not available for interviews throughout the spring. Though he’s not talking, people are still talking about him until he gives them something new to talk about in 2013.