Bedlam Football

Oklahoma defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles celebrates a big play during OU’s Bedlam victory last Nov. 21 at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Brendan Radley-Hiles, or “Bookie” as he is affectionately (or not) more typically known, projects so well.

Or is it “projected” now?

Because he’s gone.

If he’s gone.

He won’t really be gone until he enrolls elsewhere, so Sooner fans can hold on to that.

Should they want to.

Hard to know.

His head coach clearly wants him back and just as clearly has off-the-charts affection for him.

We’ll get to that.

Now, can we just acknowledge what a twisted and odd and strange three seasons Radley-Hiles has spent at Oklahoma? Like, maybe there’s been no player like him in the history of the program.

Josh Heupel was beloved as a player and reviled as a coach.

Barry Switzer experienced just a touch of being on both sides of the fans’ feelings, losing many of them when over a five-year span, from 1980 to 1984, he lost 16 games … all forgotten when OU claimed its sixth national championship the next year and followed it up with two more 11-1 campaigns.

Brian Bosworth was controversial, but beloved. Marcus Dupree could be on both sides of Switzer’s affection, but fans just wanted to watch him run.

Just one player over the last 50 years of Sooner football, maybe, did the Sooner Nation love to love when things were going well and and love to not love whatsoever when they weren’t.

That would be Landry Jones, but the comparison seems to end there.

What was so maddening about Jones were the number of non-sensical bad plays he remained capable of making when, but for them, he might have been an All-American. But what made him unique was that he, nor Bob Stoops, nor his position coach and coordinator, Heupel, could make any sense of those struggles, could offer confidence in their ironing out.

Jones’ best season turned out to be his redshirt sophomore season, the season before Heupel was elevated to co-coordinator and play-calling duties.

Go figure.

Though he threw for several country miles, nobody could give voice to the struggles Jones couldn’t shed.

None could project.


One of the best talkers you’ll ever come across.

If he struggled on the field, he could talk about it with all of his wits, without answers designed just to get through an uncomfortable moment, with complete engagement.

“Right now, I believe that we’re consistent and we’re finding confidence in our consistency,” he said following OU’s 33-14 victory at TCU this past season.

He was jumping the gun a bit because OU’s previous game, it had been taken to overtime by Texas. But that OT triumph had been two weeks earlier, making Radley-Hiles prophetic, at least.

The Sooners played terrific defense the rest of the season and Radley-Hiles’ presence delivering a quote like that, with such clarity and gravity, was enough to make you believe it would happen before it did.

If only he could have played more responsibly.

He struggled on the field as all Sooner defenders struggled playing for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Yet, upon Alex Grinch’s arrival, the narrative began to flip for the entire unit.

So why, when things were going so well for him, could Radley-Hiles not help but lower the crown of his helmet into LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Hilaire — a 15-yard penalty even if he’d not used his helmet — a toxically dirty play, putting OU in a horrible spot in a national semifinal?

“Oh, boy,” said play-by-play man Sean McDonough, calling the national broadcast. “If that isn’t [targeting], what is?”

Or, why did he have to taunt Oklahoma State receiver Dillon Stoner after an incomplete third-down throw, giving the Poke offense life at a time OU led 21-0?

“I wouldn’t play him,” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said after it happened.

No good answer exists.

There has been other silliness in less important games, too. Radley-Hiles’ most famous extra-curricular failures have not been his only ones.

Most have been so dumb and unnecessary, explaining them away as intensity run amok holds no water, either.

Yet, Lincoln Riley remains his biggest fan.

Before he jumped into the transfer portal, Riley, extolling Radley-Hiles’ value as a teammate, said OU would be a “worse” program the moment he departs.

After he jumped in the portal, Riley held out hope it would not be a final decision.

“I certainly hope his career here is not over,” he said. “We’ll see how it plays out. He’s had a great impact here.

“The people here within the walls probably understand that a whole lot better than the people outside.”


Not that any of them can make sense of Radley-Hiles’ lack of discipline that so strangely exists only on the field. Not that any of them could confidently assert Radley-Hiles might outgrow that lack of discipline.

Come to think of it, maybe he and Jones have more in common than we thought.

Really, here’s the deal.

Sportswriters root for the story, so most of us would probably love for him to come back.

Yet, given the mental, physical or psychological hump the one-time five-star prospect can’t seem to get over, even as OU’s defense strives, maybe he understands it’s too late to fix here.

Too much water above the bridge. Too many difficult times to not play with a boulder on his shoulder that leads to penalties and ejections.

Here’s hoping Brendon Radley-Hiles lands where he belongs, wherever that might be.

If it’s back here, terrific.

Don’t count on it.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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