Patience pays off for OU's Roy Finch

NORMAN, Okla. -- It would have been easy for Roy Finch to hang his head low and consider leaving Oklahoma.

Finch entered the season with the burden of high expectations -- from himself, his teammates, the coaching staff and Sooners fans -- yet he had a tough time even getting on the field in September. He was a preseason All-Big 12 selection but had only six carries before October.

Finch could have left the program, like Jonathon Miller, Jermie Calhoun and Brandon Williams, running backs who transferred before the end of the season after beginning fall camp on the roster.

Instead, he chose to stay.

"I came to this school for a reason, and that's to win championships," Finch said. "I didn't come to this school to leave."

While Calhoun and Miller let their lack of carries spur them to transfer, Finch kept his head up and maintained a positive attitude. Williams, a freshman from Brookshire, Texas, elected to transfer closer to home for family reasons.

"There's going to be tough times no matter where you go," Finch said. "No matter where you are in life, there's going to be a dark place where you have to find some strength to make it through.

"I had some tough times when I broke my ankle and was not playing last year in the first five games, but I had to battle through things, stay positive and know my time would come."

And it has.

Heading into Friday's Insight Bowl matchup against Iowa, Finch is expected to carry the load for the Sooners on the ground. He averaged 16 carries per game in OU's final four games and finished the season with 105 carries for 601 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

Only Finch and Brennan Clay remain healthy and available to play in a running back corps that went six-deep before the season began, including Miller, Calhoun, Williams and Dominique Whaley, who broke his ankle against Kansas State on Oct. 29.

"When [Miller] and Jermie Calhoun left, I was kind of shocked," Finch said of his teammates' September departures. "Then when Brandon decided to leave, I looked around the locker room, and we only have two true running backs inside the locker room besides Whaley], who's hurt.

"I looked around the locker room and said, 'Coach, we're thin!' He was like, 'Yeah, we're all we've got right now.' We just have to stick together and play as a team."

Almost every player on the Oklahoma roster stepped on campus as a highly-recruited prospect after being the best player on his high-school team and one of the best players in his area. The expectations -- both internally and externally -- can prove tough to handle.

"Out of high school, you come out with a lot of expectations, and coaches put a target on you," Finch said. "They automatically want you to be the first in the groups in sprints, the first in everything."

While others decided to search for greener pastures, Finch stuck it out.

"I'm used to criticism," he said. "I'm used to getting knocked down and having to get back up and try over again, and that's what I've had to do for two years here."

It is a valuable lesson.

If Calhoun and Miller had hung around and just kept competing on the practice field with the hope of earning playing time, they would have had plenty of opportunities to play, thanks to several nagging injuries to Clay and the season-ending injury to Whaley. Those opportunities ended up in Finch's hands, who has 137 total touches since Miller and Calhoun left in September.

Safe to say, Finch has benefited from remaining positive and waiting for his turn.

"I would say I'm a good testament of that," Finch said. "I've been through a lot since I've been here, sometimes wanting to give up, like, 'Where do I fit in on this team?' You just have to find where you fit in, and when you find that spot, you want to continue to improve on that spot."

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bchatmonespn@gmail.com.

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