At 5-7 and 165 pounds, which might even be a tad generous coming from the official media guide listing, senior running back Roy Finch is not only fast of foot, but because of his low center of gravity can be very elusive and difficult to bring down at times.
In Saturday's annual Red-White spring football game, the diminutive Finch rushed for 20 yards on eight carries, but also hauled in four passes for a total of 73 yards and a touchdown. That is two more receptions than he had all of last season and 67 more yards receiving.
Many of the senior starters saw very limited or no action in this year's public spring scrimmage at Gaylord Family-OU Memorial Stadium, which was attended by 29,000-plus fans. But Finch was very active in the game, and performed well, which he hopes will be a good omen heading into his final season in a Sooner uniform.
Finch, a four-star recruit by Scout.com and several other national recruiting rating services when he came to Oklahoma as a freshman in 2010, enjoyed his best season his sophomore year. He saw action in all 13 games that season and started in seven games following a season-ending ankle injury to Dominique Whaley, the Sooners' top running back that year.
The Florida native was OU's second leading rusher in 2011, with 605 total net yards on 111 carries and an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Rated the fourth best all-purpose back nationally in the 2010 recruiting class and the No. 20 running back by Scout.com, Finch also was a weapon catching passes out of the backfield that season. He had 34 pass receptions for 296 yards that year.
Then came last season, and Dom Whaley drew the starting nod in the season opener. Still not 100 percent from his injury the prior year, Whaley was replaced as the Sooners' lead running back by junior transfer Damien Williams, who was spelled throughout most of the season by Brennan Clay. Fullback Trey Millard also had 33 rushing carries during the season.
Finch found himself buried on the depth chart, and as a result he had only seven rushing attempts all last season for just 62 yards. That compares with 85 carries his freshman season totaling 385 yards and, of course, his career-high sophomore year. Thanks to OU's high-powered offense, Finch did see a lot of action last season as a primary kick returner along with Clay. Finch had 12 returns during the season and averaged 31 yards per return, including a 100-yard runback for a touchdown against Kansas.
Finch's limited use during the 2012 season raised all kinds of questions and concern by some fans about what was really going on with the multi-purpose junior running back and what might have caused him to drop so far down on the depth chart. Perhaps it was an attitude or a maturity issue, or maybe he wasn't able to handle the responsibility or the pressure of being the first or second running back on the depth chart to the coaching staff's satisfaction. Whatever the real reason was, it was clear that head coach Bob Stoops and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel did not believe Finch was deserving of a starting position and, by extension, did not give the Sooners the best chance to be successful and win.
Stoops has said repeatedly since taking over the Oklahoma head coaching job 14 seasons ago, "Guys play who we feel are in the best position to play at that time." That will be my position from now to the end of time, he said
The coaches are saying that Finch has shown more responsibility and is in the right frame of mind this spring and appears committed to working harder and doing what he can to improve and make his senior year as good as it can be.
"(Finch) really has played well every day (in spring practice), so it's been exciting and good to see Roy doing what he's doing," Stoops said after the spring game Saturday.
Finch also has caught the positive attention this spring of Huepel, who had some good things to say Saturday about his senior running back. "(Roy is) doing what we're asking him to do in the meeting room, on the practice field, or in the classroom, in the weight room," Heupel said. "He's maturing as a person. If you're going to play at a high level, you have to mature as an individual. So he's doing a lot of things in the right way that five him hope that he'll be able to have a bigger role than a year ago."
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