Really interesting piece from John Hoover of the Tulsa World Tuesday morning on a player, Dominique Whaley, who has unfortunately become a bit of a forgotten man this season. The former walk-on running back suffered through what proved to be a lost season as he continues to recover from that gruesome ankle injury he sustained against Kansas State in 2011. Whaley suffered torn ligaments and a broken bone in that ankle.
Whaley said that he had "mixed feelings" about the way this season has played out and his lack of playing time.
"Of course I've got mixed feelings about that," he said.
Whaley thought he would return from that gruesome injury and possibly reclaim his job as the starter this year. He definitely thought he'd play more than he has.
"I did," he said. "But some stuff turned out certain ways. It seemed to work for the best."
While limited, Whaley did see time in the Sooners first five games of the season putting up a respectable 241 yards on just 38 carries (6.3 yard avg. per carry). It was unrealistic to ever expect him to be ready by the start of the 2012 season, but yet there he was as the starting running back for OU's opener against UTEP. However, you could tell when watching him that he just wasn't 100%. He didn't have that same burst or ability to plant his foot in the ground and quickly cut up field. He was trying to rebuild his confidence in that ankle, which is a difficult thing to do because attempting to do so in practice as opposed to a live game are two very different things.
He thought the pain and stiffness in his ankle was manageable and would go away, and coaches believed what he was saying. "Cutting and pushing?" Whaley said. "I could tell some of the differences. But ultimately, I'm pretty good."
"It's kind of a hard thing to describe," he said. "It's one of those things you've just got to get a feel for it. Of course, I haven't been on it in so long. A lot of the things I used to do, I've got to get back into doing it. It's gonna feel different. I've been off of it so long, I can't do some of the same things. But for the most part, I'm good."
He still doesn't feel 100 percent healed. "I'm getting there," Whaley said. "If I'm not, I'm getting there."
Needless to say it's a disappointing story for a guy who captured the hearts of so many Oklahoma fans coming out of nowhere last season to win the starting running back job. The odds are probably not in his favor of seeing significant time against Texas A&M, but you would hope if there is any opportunity for him to see the field the Oklahoma coaches would find a way to get him in there.
His story was and still is a fascinating one and you can only hope it continues with Whaley fulfilling his dream of playing in the NFL.
It certainly won't be easy and there is plenty of work to be done between now and then, but if you'll remember this was a guy the coaches at one point said compared, at least physically, quite favorably to Adrian Peterson.
Again, credit to John Hoover of the Tulsa World for his focus on Whaley and finding a storyline beyond the obvious.