Time to Shine

NORMAN, Okla. — In mid fall 2010, something happened to ultimately pave the way for a breakout finish by an unexpected player.

Wide receiver DeJuan Miller, a starter who had managed 15 catches for 199 yards over six games, suffered a serious knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Just like that, quarterback Landry Jones and the Sooners had lost a serious weapon along the perimeter.

But Cameron Kenney emerged as a star down the stretch, racking up pivotal catch after pivotal catch, the most crucial of which came late in the fourth quarter of the Bedlam game, when he snagged a deep slant and sprinted 86 yards to the house.

That was all part of a finish that saw him close out the year with a total of 544 receiving yards and four touchdowns, along with a 16.5 yards per catch mark.

"My injury opened it up for him, and he took advantage of it," Miller said. "In the big games, in the spotlight, he took it upon himself and made plays."

It was hard not to notice just how incredible it was.

"I think what Cam did last year was special," said co-offensive coordinator and play caller Josh Heupel. "But that's something that we talked about in this room, not since the Ryan Broyles injury but just in general that there's a guy that not everything was going his way. There were some ups and downs, a lot of downs, but a guy that stayed the course, practiced hard, kept competing and all of the sudden the last three or four weeks of the season, gets an opportunity and he makes the most of it."

It's funny how things come full circle just like that.

Now, it's Miller in that same scenario, but perhaps at a different magnitude considering the receiver OU lost.

Broyles, of course, tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) the other night, and now Miller has been inserted into the starting lineup as his replacement.

For a guy who only has 11 receptions and 121 yards, both of which rank seventh on the team, along with a touchdowns, it's now his time to shine.

He appears ready for the challenge, one he says starts in the meeting rooms and translates throughout the week, not just on Saturdays.

"I mean, you know, it's just going out and just having good practice habits," Miller said. "When you have confidence and when you develop just a certain type of swagger about yourself, then when you think and when you have a kind of a self-talking when you know you can make this play, when you know you can do this, then it translates into the game.

"And I think when it translates into the game, it also has something to do in practice. And I'm looking, you know, for these next three weeks to just hone in on practicing a lot better."

The Sooners are certainly looking for him to step up, play better and provide a much more significant role.

"It's important for him, it's important for everybody to step up, play at a high level, compete, be physical, play without the ball and then make plays when the ball is thrown to him," said co-offensive coordinator and play caller Josh Heupel. "So, you know, it's important for Dejuan. Obviously, he's played at a high level when given the opportunity. He needs to continue to do that, and so do the other guys."

Not to throw all the pressure on the senior receiver, but fellow co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell sums up the whole situation like this:

Every player that dons the Crimson and Cream uniform has a time to shine, and while it might be as soon as they arrive at OU or a few years later, that time will come.

Obviously, now is Miller's time.

"As a player all you can do is the things you can control is to practice and prepare for when your opportunity comes and whether that's a freshman that's never played much or whether that's a senior that hasn't started, you're going to be asked to make plays at a certain point of your career," Norvell said. "And hey, it may be this week or it may next week or it may be the following week. You never know."

Again, for Miller, it's fairly obvious the time has come.

That's not to say they don't need guys like Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and others to elevate their games more, but as the replacement on the depth chart, Miller has a heavy responsibility and expectations in front of him.

If he learned anything from experience, experience on the other side of the situation last year, the Sooners will be in good hands.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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