Finch shows poise to play bigger role

NORMAN, Okla. — There's no question running back Roy Finch has been one of the most mysterious players over his three-year career.

There's no question running back Roy Finch has been one of the most mysterious players over his three-year career.

Standing in with his just 5-foot-7, 167-pound frame, Finch has a shiftiness like few, allowing him to cut on a dime.

He's got big play potential out of the backfield for that reason.

But for whatever reason, Finch just simply hasn't been able to put it together since arriving at OU.

He became the feature back in 2011 after Dominique Whaley broke his ankle, starting seven games and scampering for 605 yards on 111 carries for a 5.5 yard-per-carry mark.

The year prior, his first at OU, the Niceville, Fla., product carried 85 times for 398 yards while participating in eight games and starting one.

However, he mysteriously dropped off last season to just seven rushes for 62 yards.

Finch slipped on the depth chart behind Damien Williams, Brennan Clay and Whaley and rarely even saw the field.

But if this year's Red-White game is any indication, Finch could be poised for a much more productive 2013 season, his last in an OU uniform.

The shifty back ran eight times for 20 yards but more impressively caught four balls for 73 yards and turned heads when he made multiple guys miss and sprinted to the end zone on a pass by quarterback Blake Bell.

"You saw him today. He's explosive when he gets the ball in his hands," said OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. "He makes plays in space and when he's not in space. He can find the small crack and make a play."

The performance suggests he's been more accountable in the offseason.

"Roy is more reliable because of what he has been able to do on a consistent basis in January and February during the offseason," Heupel said. "[He's] doing what we ask him to do in the meeting room, on the practice field or in the weight room and in the classroom. He's maturing as a person.

"For you to play at a high level you have to be mature as an individual. So, he's doing a lot of things in a right way that give you hope that he'll be able to have a bigger role than he did a year ago."

His head coach is excited about that possibility.

"Roy's done a really good job, really has played well, has played well every day," praised Bob Stoops. "So, it's been exciting and good to see Roy, you know, doing what he's doing and believe he's gonna continue and keep it up."

The thing is, even with a breakout spring game and more consistency since stepping back out on the practice field in March, Finch will still have his work cut out for him to play a bigger part of this offense.

This is a deep running back corps with all the guys mentioned above minus the departed Whaley, plus guys like Alex Ross and David Smith.

We feel like we got a good core stable of backs," Heupel said. "Trey Millard is a good player, needs the ball in his hands. Damien Williams, Brennan Clay [are, too]. That should be a strength of us offensively, and so finding a way for all those guys to have roles as long as they continue to earn it will be a big part of my job."

That said, Finch has at least made a move in the right direction and he showed it in front of 29,200 last weekend at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

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