NORMAN — A few days before the Cotton Bowl, Trey Millard listed all the reasons why he'd consider returning for his senior season, which he ultimately decided to do.
Earning his degree. Chasing championships. Having another year with his OU teammates and classmates. Playing at Notre Dame. Beating Texas a fourth straight season.
Noticeably absent from the list was an underclassman's typical reason for returning to college, but blocking fullbacks aren't typically a hot commodity on NFL Draft day.
No one quite knows how high Oklahoma's jack-of-all-trades might climb with one more college football season, but there's one way to all but guarantee his stock rises. It also might help the Sooners win some games.
Give him the football.
Millard (6-foot-2, 256 pounds) picked up 198 yards on 33 rushes — a 6-yards per carry average.
He also caught 30 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns, including one of Oklahoma's plays of the year; Millard caught a pass in the flat, jumped over Texas defender Mykkele Thompson while simultaneously forearming Adrian Phillips to the ground, then sprinted for a 73-yard gain.
In Oklahoma's 41-13 Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M, Millard picked up 11 yards and a first down on the Sooners' fourth play from scrimmage. Three plays later, he caught a pass for another first down.
Millard didn't touch the ball again until the third quarter, and finished with four carries and 28 yards.
A week after the Cotton Bowl, Bob Stoops told reporters that it was fair to question Millard's lack of touches in 2011.
“We weren't as productive offensively,” Stoops said of 2011. “This year we were. It worked this year. Meaning we didn't have to get him more touches.
“We get him involved ... just hard to do a whole lot more with the spot he's in. But we always look for it, and we'll keep doing that, because we feel he's one of our best players.”
Seniors-to-be Damien Williams and Brennan Clay each emerged as solid options in the backfield; Williams displayed tough, inside running ability, plus serious home-run capability.
But Millard — with his size, speed and athleticism — looks like a potential 1,000-yard NFL rusher.
“Some people say that I'll play more of a running back,” Millard said. “I've heard a bunch of different things, more of a W or a tight end that doesn't necessarily have his hand down on the line.”
Stoops said he doesn't know how high Millard could climb in the draft with another college season — “I don't know where he was gonna go this year, so how am I gonna know next year how much it's gonna improve?” — but said another year of training is important as anything.
“You're gonna be running into Ray Lewis'; you need to be ready for it,” Stoops said. “I think another year in the weight room — he's a true junior — is gonna help him. Getting more experience, those kinds of things.”
Millard offered Oklahoma — which lost its two leading receivers and four-year starting quarterback — a gift by opting for another college season.
It'd benefit the team, Millard's future — and would be a gesture of appreciation — if coaches would put the ball in his hands more often.