Norman — It’s almost become a tradition at Oklahoma. When spring practice begins, one emphasis is finding ways to make Mossis Madu a bigger part of the offense.
Another tradition has been it not carrying over to the fall.
But offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson didn’t sound like he was blowing smoke when he was asked about Madu after OU’s first spring practice two weeks ago.
“He’s a senior, he’s talented and he’s a good kid. He’s a kid that we want to do well,” Wilson said. “We really want him to have a good year.”
This is the final spring the Sooners will have to tinker with Madu’s role. The former Norman High standout will be a senior next season. His college career has reached a now or never point.
Last season, Madu was moved to receiver. It was a move all involved believed would get Madu more touches.
That didn’t happen. He only caught seven passes for 69 yards in 12 games. His rushing total was just 17 yards on five carries.
It was a frustrating season for Madu.
“There were times where I felt like I was getting it down. Then there were other times where I felt like my head was spinning,” Madu said. “When you grow up as a kid, everyone plays receiver out there playing backyard football. It all feels so natural. Then you put so many other things to it, putting the pads on and having to read things, it’s a whole different game.”
The receiver experiment ended with OU’s victory over Stanford in the Sun Bowl. Over the winter, the coaching staff told Madu he was going to running back. Madu’s reaction was anything but negative.
“All smiles,” he said. “Let’s do it.”
Because one thing OU proved last year is versatility is an extremely unique talent. Running back DeMarco Murray was OU’s second-leading rusher (709 yards) and receiver (522 yards) last season.
Some of it had to do with the glut of injuries OU suffered on the offensive side of the ball, but the ability to run the ball and catch the ball out of the backfield don’t come around often.
Murray and Madu, who were both part of OU’s 2006 recruiting class, share those traits.
“Mossis has very similar skills (to Murray) as far as catching the ball and playing space,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “He can do a lot of that.”
But above else there’s a feeling Madu has received the fruits of all the labor.
In 40 career games, he’s never been a starter. He was a third-string running back for two seasons and a backup receiver last year.
But Madu’s attitude has never soured.
“I’m not going to be selfish out there,” Madu said. “I want to earn a spot.”
Wilson still isn’t 100 percent sure what you call the spot Madu has earned. For now, it’s a running back with a lot of options to go with it.
“He needs to have a productive role. At receiver he was a slight compliment guy, but he needs to be a major compliment guy,” Wilson said. “He needs to be able to take some load at tailback, and because he does have that time at receiver maybe we flex him out a little bit, but he’s not going to be a dual position guy, he’s a tailback.”
It doesn’t matter what you call Madu’s role. This is his fourth spring practice. He hasn’t had the kitchen sink thrown at him, but he’s caught all the parts to build one. Perhaps, this will be the year everything meshes together for Madu.
“He’s a good, hard-playing guy that has a lot to him,” Stoops said. “We want to keep giving him opportunities.”