NORMAN — Lacoltan Bester always bugged his coaches at Mississippi's Kemper County High School to let him play wide receiver.
“I used to beg to play receiver,” Bester said. “But we had nobody to throw me the ball, so I had to just play quarterback and suck it up.”
For entirely different reasons, the 6-foot-3, 208-pound Bester's first season at Oklahoma also involved an intense desire to play wide receiver and some sucking it up.
When Bester arrived in Norman last summer, the Sooners' wide receiver unit was in desperate need of help. But by the time the season began, senior Justin Brown had transferred from Penn State with immediate eligibility, and after four games, junior Jalen Saunders — a Fresno State transfer — was granted his eligibility as well, leaving Bester buried on the depth chart.
He finished the 2012 season with only three catches and 29 yards.
“Playing with those guys, they were like my brothers,” Bester said. “So I'm always happy for them to see them do good things. All of them always encouraged me, told me, ‘Good times will come with those who'll be patient.'
“I've waited my time and I feel like it's now.”
Indeed, after a strong offseason and impressive fall camp, Bester appears primed to enter Oklahoma's starting lineup in 2013.
“He just didn't have the consistency we needed and overall I think he's pushed his self harder here to be in better shape and better condition,” OU coach Bob Stoops said of Bester's 2012 season. “I think he's able to make more plays. He's just probably worked harder mentally and physically to get in position to compete at this level at a high level and he's been doing it.”
When Bester went from high school to East Mississippi State Community College, he played some quarterback as a freshman before getting a full-time position change his sophomore year.
In 2011, Bester had 76 catches for 1,042 yards and 17 touchdowns and helped lead his team to a junior-college national title.
Some academic struggles meant Bester didn't sign a National Letter of Intent in February 2012, but after Oklahoma wideouts Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson were suspended indefinitely in May, OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell found Bester and signed him.
It might've been easy for Bester to get down on himself throughout the 2012 season, when Brown and Saunders shined and he spent most of his time during Oklahoma games on the sideline. But he said he never lost focus or got upset at his lack of playing time.
This year — with Stills and Brown both in the NFL — there are more opportunities for the several talented receivers still on the Sooners' roster.
Saunders and sophomore Sterling Shepard are sure bets, but beyond that, there are several other wideouts competing throughout preseason practices.
Reynolds is back after a year-long suspension. Sophomore Durron Neal caught a touchdown pass in the spring game and appears in a good position to contribute.
Former five-star prospect Trey Metoyer is back for his sophomore year hoping to begin reaching his extremely high potential.
“We have all types of receivers,” Metoyer said. “They're all competitive and they all like to compete on the field and in the film room. At the same time, we're all helping each other.”
Redshirt freshman Derrick Woods was a Scout Team Player of the Year in 2012, and even true freshman Dannon Cavil, who enrolled early and went through spring practices, could command immediate playing time.
“That makes a lot of guys grind,” Bester said. “Knowing that you've got talent beside you, you've gotta play your best every day. You've gotta work hard.
“You can't take plays off. That makes it kinda rough on the DBs sometimes when they wanna take a play off because we're going 100 percent every play.”