NORMAN — When wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham moves to Norman this week to begin working out with the Oklahoma football team, he’ll carry a lot more baggage than just what’s in his luggage.
Green-Beckham had three run-ins with police during his brief time at Missouri, which dismissed the troubled receiver in April. That combined with Bob Stoops’ reputation as a no-nonsense disciplinarian made the decision to add Green-Beckham a pretty surprising one.
Obviously, OU coaches believe that in a new environment, he can thrive and turn his life around. But did the decision ultimately come down to Green-Beckham’s tremendous — and rare — talent? You bet it did.
“People need to remember: We didn’t pull this kid out of the garbage dump,” said one OU source. “He could have went almost anywhere he wanted.
“The average person doesn’t understand he is a once-in-a-decade talent.”
Look at almost any NFL roster, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a wide receiver with Green-Beckham’s size (6-foot-6, 225 pounds) and speed. He has been clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds.
In terms of talent, size and speed, Green-Beckham has drawn comparisons to Detroit Lions superstar Calvin Johnson.
He caught 87 passes for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons at Missouri, and set the national high school record with 6,353 career receiving yards at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo.
Green-Beckham was the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2012, and Oklahoma was in the hunt for him until the very end of the recruiting process.
“He was a great kid, just made a bad choice,” said a current Missouri football player who asked to remain anonymous.
The player added that Green-Beckham is “a great steal for OU.”
If he can stay out of trouble and gain immediate eligibility, he’ll be an especially great steal for the Sooners. OU is pursuing an NCAA waiver that would allow Green-Beckham to play in 2014.
Oklahoma enters the season with national championship aspirations, but the wide receiver corps is one position group that is a concern. The Sooners lost Jalen Saunders, Lacoltan Bester and Jaz Reynolds to graduation, and junior Sterling Shepard is the only returner with any significant experience at this level.
Junior Durron Neal; sophomores Derrick Woods and Austin Bennett; and freshmen Jordan Smallwood, Dallis Todd and Michiah Quick figure to be Oklahoma’s best options at receiver outside of Shepard. All are talented, but lack much college football experience.
Green-Beckham’s baggage is obviously concerning, but this OU coaching staff isn’t careless. Plus, a decision like this would’ve had to involve Stoops’ bosses, including athletic director Joe Castiglione and probably even university President David Boren.
All those folks were clearly convinced Green-Beckham deserves a second chance and is capable of making the right decisions in the future. But at the end of the day, his freakish football skills are what ultimately made this a risk worth taking.