Sooners RB Finch ready for shot at redemption

NORMAN, Okla. – Seems like forever ago Roy Finch was the All-Big 12 preseason running back.

Hard to believe, really, mostly because what we remember of Finch is hazy. That’s what happens when you have seven total carries in 2012 – five coming against Florida A&M, a school known more for it’s band than it’s football team.

And in a backfield that’s experience-heavy with seniors Brennan Clay and Damien Williams, Finch is a lot closer to forgotten than he is gone heading into his senior season.

That’s what happens when you get shifted from running back to slot receive and go through periods of inactivity some viewed as apathy. Moving to slot receiver last year and then getting buried on the depth chart, passed up up by both Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard didn’t help get Finch on the field, either.

All of it a strange twist to a story that still has Finch as the most-talented running back on the team and arguably the most-talented player on either side of the ball.

“I want to leave my mark on the University,” Finch said. “Everyone knows I’m a talented player, but I haven’t put that season together where people say, ‘Yeah. This is what Roy is about.’ You guys have seen flashes, but I want you to see the real Roy. I’m ready and excited.”

The real Roy is the one who video game moves, speed and make-you-miss ability, but the Roy we’ve seen hasn’t been able to stay on the field.

“The things I’ve done have kept me off the field, it’s nothing they have done. It was my actions,’ Finch said of his lost season of 2012 and what coaches have told him. Word was Finch wasn’t adept at pass blocking, and with Landry Jones at quarterback, pass blocking was certainly a priority.

But things have changed heading into 2013, and that’s the best news for Finch, who seemed re-energized by talks with coaches and future plans. Finch talked liked he’s been soothed and comforted by teammates and coaches. Sounds like he’s had numerous conversations and
“(Offensive coordinator) Coach (Josh) Heupel has seen the consistency in me on and off the field. He feels like he can trust me. He just said that we’re excited for you and said they’re going to use me in a lot of different ways. I can’t say everything, I don’t want to give it away.”

Finch said he’ll start on kickoff return, but beyond that wouldn’t say that anything is guaranteed, and not surprisingly. It’s a tough year for Finch to break back into the position seemingly meant for him two years ago. Clay is dependable and Williams has had his flashes of brilliance, too, breaking loose on a xx run and score against Texas last season.
He’s been passed on the depth chart in year’s past by Clay, Williams and walk-on Dominique Whaley, but unlike those runners – all with their benefits and upsides – Finch’s on-field absence is almost always noticeable.
“It was a disappointing season (in 2012) because I didn’t play as much as I wanted to,” Finch said. “Coaches tried to put me at slot and I’m not a pure slot player, I’m an athlete. I can play slot, running back, kickoff return, punt return. Whatever. Limiting me to one position – that’s not me. It didn’t work out the way they wanted it. They have different plans for me this year and I’m excited.”

Fans have been excited about Finch from the beginning. He had nearly 400 yards rushing as a freshman and then 605 yards, getting a bulk of the carries after Whaley went down with a knee injury in 2011. Then came last year where Finch was continually on the minds of fans wondering why he couldn’t get into the game.

“I feel like the middle part of last year I grew up and became the man I needed to be for this team,” he said. “I felt I noticed a change in myself and carried it over to the summer. I’m very happy with where I am at today.”

Content for now, but what happens when the Sooners line up Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe? Where will Finch be?
“Every player has a point in the career where they don’t feel like they can live up to it. it’s up that person to prove their coach or the fans or media wrong,” Finch said.That’s what I did. I took it in stride and I know I’m going to have a great season and have the season people are expecting me to have.”

Fans have never doubted Finch’s talents. Coaches, on the other hand, well, that’s another story, but it’s obvious Finch didn’t get on the field for some reason not seen by fans or media.

“I feel like I’ve done everything I needed to do,” Finch said. “They (coaches) said, do what you need to do and you’re going to play, and I trust my coaches. They have never lied to me.”

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK