NORMAN — As East Mississippi plunged through the 2011 football season, toward its junior college national championship, the Lion defense spent its practices lined up opposite one pesky scout-teamer.
Day after day, week after week, Lacoltan Bester would unfailingly hustle onto the practice field, giving East Mississippi's first-team defense a regular challenge. Sometimes, he directed the scout team as quarterback. Other times, he lined up at running back or receiver, his true position.
Bester, who signed a letter of intent in May with Oklahoma, was the Lions' top offensive threat. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound wideout made 76 catches for 1,042 yards and 17 touchdowns during East Mississippi's unbeaten season.
That's why Buddy Stephens never became completely comfortable with Bester's frequent and risky scout-team volunteering. It didn't take long for the Lions' coach to accept the truth — he just couldn't keep Bester off the field.
“You always worry about it, but what are you doing to do?” Stephens said. “To him, it was like playing in the sandbox.”
Bester spent the much of this summer in the classroom, completing his requirements to graduate and become academically qualified at OU.
He graduated, is enrolled at OU, according to a search on the university's online directory, and is officially eligible for football, the Rivals website SoonerScoop.com reported Thursday, because junior college transfers don't need NCAA Clearinghouse approval.
Stephens confirmed Bester's academic success Thursday, three days after Sooners coach Bob Stoops said he thought Bester had completed requirements, but was still awaiting final acceptance.
Academic concerns are why OU waited so long to pursue Bester. But after several returning receivers were indefinitely suspended and removed from their scholarships, the Sooners welcomed Bester to campus one May weekend. He signed before leaving Norman.
“He was working out with us, running, lifting, catching balls and going to class,” Stephens said of Bester's summer. “He really hunkered down on his classes. The University of Oklahoma was in contact with our athletic academic advisers daily, many times a day.
“Oklahoma did their job, we did our job and Colt did his.”
If Bester wows coaches in practice and contributes like Stephens thinks he will, don't expect Stoops to let Bester anywhere near the scout team.
It might be tough, though; Stephens said he simply loves playing football. All the time.
“He's a really country kid, very humble,” Stephens said. “He really enjoys playing the game and he has a great understanding of it.
“I think he's going to make an immediate impact. When you watch him, you'll see he's a big-time talent. Very much an athlete.”
An early contribution from Bester would provide a huge boost for Landry Jones and the Sooners' passing attack. Kenny Stills is the only active OU receiver or tight end with a career Division I reception, leaving the receiving corps inexperienced and possibly reliant on true freshmen.
Bester's eligibility is welcome news, also, because Courtney Gardner's remains uncertain.
Gardner completed summer classes Thursday at Sierra (Calif.) Community College, said Tom Gang, the school's athletic director, and final grades should come as soon as next week.
But for now, OU fans can relax a little with the eligibility of Bester, who reminds Stephens of another former pupil; former Lion wideout Lance Lewis played at East Carolina and, on Thursday, opened his rookie NFL training camp with the Washington Redskins.
“Colt is that type of guy,” Stephens said. “If he continues to work hard, he could play on Sundays.”