Time to recognize 2022 Sooners for something more than 6-7

Time to recognize 2022 Sooners for something more than 6-7

Guerin Emig: Opinions of the ’22 Sooners range from pity to resentment to apathy, given the ‘23 Sooners are 7-0, Lincoln Riley and USC are self-destructing. I hope OU backers eventually arrive at gratitude when it comes to 2022 — or at least understanding.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Oct 25, 2023, 9:59am CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Oct 25, 2023, 9:59am CDT

NORMAN — There’s no getting around a 6-7 record for a program like Oklahoma. That complicates the Sooners’ 2022 legacy. 

It prompts different reactions, like this one from Brent Venables Tuesday:

“For me, I didn’t flinch. This is what I know to be fact. But I know as well that, depending on people’s experience, there are plenty that doubted (Venables shrugged his shoulders). I’m not mad at them and don’t fault them. That’s just normal human nature. 

“I never focused on that. My job is to focus on the guys sitting in front of me. My job is to convince and challenge and inspire and motivate and develop.”

Venables, as confident as the summer is hot, would say the same had OU gone 0-12 in his first season. 

Venables also said in reflection: “Everything starts with belief and faith in what you are doing. To create the buy-in, you have to go through some stuff sometimes when you are building things.”

The Sooners went through a world of stuff last year. Perhaps there will come a day Venables can be as sentimental about the experience as old boss Bob Stoops has become of the 1999 Sooners, his first team as head coach. Stoops, never confused for a softie, became so attached he kept a depth chart of the ‘99ers in his desk drawer the remainder of his OU tenure. 

Right now reflection runs a little deeper for the 2022 players. It makes sense in that several are no longer around. They have moved on to different teams or different careers. All they have left of their last OU experience is that reflection. 

I talked briefly with one of them before the Sooners’ game against UCF last Saturday.

It’s nice to just kind of… We always heard about last year being the foundation and this and that,” DaShaun White said between autographs at a Sooner Spectator promotion on Campus Corner. “You took it with a grain of salt because we were getting our tails kicked a little bit. But it’s nice to see that the work we put in means something. It’s nice to see this team successful.”

That’s reflection worth our full consideration, and not just because White invested 63 games over an OU career dating back to when Tim Kish recruited him. 

Consider his comment after OU’s 2022 loss at Texas Tech guaranteed a 1-3 November record: “I love the hell out of this team… I think the amount that we all love each other helps get through stuff like this.”

Consider Marvin Mims’ comment that night: “Whether the way the season went or not, I’m not regretting coming back here. I love this place. I love this family and coaches that they brought to the staff… Did I have a choice to leave? Yeah. But I wanted to stay here and enjoy this program.”

Consider Brayden Willis’ comment the week of that Tech loss: “It’s not the year that I foresaw for us. We expected much greater for ourselves. But I will have pride, and I do have pride, knowing that I kind of jump-started the Coach Venables era. I haven’t been able to reap the fruits of my labor. But in the future, when they go and they win the title and the natty, I’ll know I had a hand in that.” 

Everybody has their own opinion. Cool,” Justin Broiles said that week. “But everybody in this building understands that we’re laying down the foundation for something special. To me, that’s what matters.”

Knowing OU’s wide, distinct fan base, opinions of the ‘22 Sooners likely range from pity to resentment to apathy, given the ‘23 Sooners are 7-0, Lincoln Riley and USC are self-destructing and most days that’s all that seems to matter around here.

I hope OU backers eventually arrive at gratitude when it comes to 2022. Or understanding at the very least. 

Players like White, Mims, Willis and Broiles have fanned out into different worlds since then. They can’t do anything about last season except embrace the likelihood that it, as White put it, meant something. 

It’s just nice to see all the hard work come to fruition,” White said Saturday. 

That the ‘23 Sooners are carrying on so admirably means something, too. 

“Honestly it makes me happy to be able to talk trash again,” White, staying fit for a second USFL season if an NFL team doesn’t inquire in the meantime, said. “Shoot, we don’t have that (49-0) loss to Texas. Don’t have to hear about that all the time. Not even that, just being able to come out and perform at a high level, it’s nice to watch. It’s fun to watch.”

That’s reassuring to hear, just as it’s reassuring to see Willis tweet the day of OU’s 34-30 triumph over Texas: “I TOLD YALL LAST YEAR, ALL THE SACRIFICE FROM 128 SO THAT 129 COULD BALL! IM SO MF PROUD.”

That can’t wipe 49-0 from the record, or All-Big 12 tight end Willis quarterbacking against Texas out of desperation that fateful 2022 day. 

That should encourage us to adjust how we view OU’s 2022 experience. “Sacrifice” is a fairer description now. So is “foundation.”

Venables didn’t go there Tuesday, but he has used a bamboo analogy to describe player development since taking over the Sooners.

“It may not happen those first few years,” he has said, “but if you just keep plugging away and cultivating, next thing you know, ‘Pfff!’ It’ll come out of nowhere and have this monstrous last year or so of their career.”

That can describe program development as well. If it felt like the Sooners were lost in the weeds in 2022, maybe we should see it as bamboo a year later. 

Maybe we should see a lot about ‘22 differently, especially out of respect to those players. 

“I keep in touch with the coaches. I keep in touch with a lot of the players. Just kind of keeping a healthy distance,” White said. “But at the same time it’s hard to stay too far away. It’s one of those things where I’ll forever be glad for this place. 

“I have no complaints.”

 

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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