NORMAN — Durron Neal expected to be a star by now.
Coming in two years ago as a four-star recruit and the No. 9 wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com, the St. Louis product thought he was ticketed for quick success.
Instead, Neal has had just 18 catches for 251 yards and has yet to score a touchdown in two seasons for Oklahoma.
“It can be frustrating but Coach Jay (Norvell) and my parents always told me just to humble yourself and God has a plan for everybody,” Neal said. “Everybody’s road is different. You just can’t get frustrated when it doesn’t look good at first.
“My step-dad always told me to celebrate slow starts because it’s all going to be worth it in the end.”
Neal seems poised for a breakout this season.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops heaped praise on Neal on Saturday, saying the junior had “taken it to another level.”
Neal hopes so.
But Neal could be critical to the Sooners’ receiving group in another way — he’s been a big part of helping Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham get acclimated since his arrival in Norman.
Neal’s and Green-Beckham’s relationship dates back to high school when the two played four hours apart in Missouri.
Neal tried to convince Green-Beckham to join him in Norman out of high school.
Green-Beckham tried to sway Neal to instead head to Columbia to play for the Tigers.
“When I found out he was coming, I was very excited,” Neal said. “He finally made the right choice.”
Green-Beckham’s eligibility for this year remains up in the air, as OU awaits to submit his paperwork to the NCAA in hopes of gaining immediate eligibility.
For now, Neal is helping Green-Beckham prepare as if he’ll play.
“He comes in, he’s ready to work,” Neal said. “He asks questions. He makes plays out there on the field. Nothing has changed with that. Just when I talk to him, (you can tell) it’s frustrating just waiting on the outcome.”
But Neal also wants to be a big-time contributor himself.
With Jalen Saunders, Lacoltan Bester and Jaz Reynolds departed, Neal is the Sooners’ second most experienced receiver behind Sterling Shepard.
“We know a lot of questions are going around our receiving corps with Jalen and Colt and Jaz leaving,” Neal said. “We like that. We’re going to prove everybody wrong. We know we believe in ourselves and our teammates believe in us and our coaches believe in us.”
It’s time, Neal said, to become the player coaches and fans expected when he was brought in.
“I’m ready for the challenge,” he said. “I’ve been here for two years. I know all my assignments. I’ve learned from some great players. This is the year that everybody on the team and my coaches expect me to be a great player that they recruited.”
Neal spent the offseason working on his footwork and route-running.
“It’s been a tremendous amount of change,” Neal said. “That’s the one thing I’ve focused on this summer was just running my routes and working on coming out with my cuts faster and attacking the deep ball.
“We need deep plays down the field, and I want to be the guy making those big plays.”