NORMAN, Okla. — Throughout the entire preseason, all the talk in the secondary was on multiple young standouts such as Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas, plus having the veteran presence of potentially the best corner in the land in Aaron Colvin.
One guy that flew under the radar all that time was strong safety Quentin Hayes.
Make no mistake about it, though; he wasn’t flying under the radar with his team during that time period.
“He’s going to be a ball hawk back there,” Colvin said. “He’s going to be a great asset to our secondary. I mean, he’s going to prove it time and time again.”
He went on.
“He’s looked great, man,” Colvin said. “Quentin’s looked great to me since the day we got here. So, you know, he just had to wait his chance and now’s his chance and I feel like he’s going to flourish out there.”
Nickelback Julian Wilson added this: “Big Q. Hayes, he’s been playing real good, too, back there at safety. You know, he’s kind of been in and out of trouble, but now he has his head on straight and is ready to make an impact this year.”
The last sentence pretty much sums it all up.
For a violation of team policies, the Sooner coaching staff tagged Hayes with an indefinite suspension that prevented him from playing a single game during the 2012 season.
Tough, grinding time when you have to watch all your teammates play the game they love and all the while can’t be any part of it.
“It was tough,” Hayes said. “You know, it kind of messes with your head. But I love football, so it’s something I just got to do.”
Hayes did it.
He made all the right decisions, said and did all the right things and changed his ways, as his 2010 Signing Class partner Wilson alluded to.
“I had to do a lot of things to get back on the team, and I was just anxious to get out there,” said Hayes, who was reinstated for the Iowa State game last year and returned on the field for the first time the other night against Louisiana-Monroe.
In his return, he recorded a pair of tackles after earning a start at one of two positions in the secondary that lost a senior last season.
“Q. Hayes had a great game, was really, again, tackled well, was where he needed to be all the time,” said OU head coach Bob Stoops.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who switched OU’s front to a three-man look and organized a shutout of ULM following a miserable defensive season in 2012, had more good things to say.
“Quentin Hayes adds a dimension to our secondary we haven’t had with the speed and the athleticism to cover,” Mike said.
Now, it’s just expanding upon that.
Shouldn’t be too hard for Hayes, who is grounded after all he’s come through.
“It just made me want to play better, you know,” Hayes said of the suspension and ensuing competition when he returned. “I got good guys behind me, so I have to elevate my game. I got to play good, got to make less mistakes and just execute.”
So, that’s what he’ll do, and Coach Mike and co. will take it.