At some point, Oklahoma wideouts Trejan Bridges and Jadon Haselwood are going to live up to all that 5-star hype.
Year Three is underway for two of the Sooners’ most revered recruiting prospects, and they are in agreement that there hasn’t been much accomplished yet, but will be soon.
Both Bridges and Haselwood participated in a video press conference on Thursday, and it was clear they are crouched in the starting blocks, ready to explode.
“Atmosphere feels different,” Bridges said.
“I’m sure,” said Haselwood, “the world’s going to see what this unit can do.”
Their paths will be forever linked because they came in together as 5-star wideouts, and those paths only became more intertwined through the travails of 2020.
“That relationship’s been tight since we realized that we are those type of dudes,” Bridges said. “Just carried that forward. And once we came in, we knew what we had to do. Just, unfortunately, the events that happened, with his surgery and stuff like that.”
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound Bridges, from Carrollton, TX, served what became a 10-game suspension for a positive drug test ahead of the 2019 Peach Bowl playoff loss to LSU. He played in just two games last season, returning from a prolonged and confounding absence just in time for the Big 12 Championship and the Cotton Bowl victory over Florida.
The 6-2, 208-pound Haselwood, from Ellenwood, GA, hurt his knee in the offseason then couldn’t train and fell behind. He missed the first six games, then returned late in the season. He played in just three games total before deciding to sit out the Cotton Bowl “for personal reasons” and returned home to Georgia.
Both are back now, both are close to 100 percent healthy and 100 percent focused, and both are ready to live up to all the billing as can’t-miss recruits.
“That started when we first, of course, got the little stars,” Bridges said.
Whether those external expectations from fans or media — or both across social media — were realistic or fair doesn’t matter any more. Bridges and Haselwood have two years in college under their belt now, and they know it’s time to produce.
As true freshmen, their statistical contributions were moderate: Bridges caught seven passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Haselwood caught 19 passes for 272 yards and a TD.
Not great, but it was a start. Then last year happened.
“It wasn’t easy,” Haselwood said. “It was more mental than anything. It was just me locking it in, becoming more of a student of the game. Learning, getting mental reps every practice. Getting my work in before practice so I can catch practice and get those mental reps. So it was definitely tough. There was days I didn’t want to do it. But I knew I had to.”
Bridges’ own frustrations ran even deeper. He was perfectly healthy, but was forbidden by the NCAA from playing in games. He went hard on the scout team, which helped, but game days must have been excruciating. And when the other two guys he was suspended with — Ronnie Perkins and Rhamondre Stevenson — returned at mid-season after a six-game punishment, his situation lingered into December.
“I mean, it was a long, kinda long, stressful type of situation,” Bridges said. “Again, it was an obstacle. I’ve had multiple obstacles that I have had to face. It was a long learning experience. I learned a lot through just watching and helping my team. Again, it was like I had to take what I learned and take the negative and turn it into a positive.”
Bridges described the emotion when he finally got the news that he could play against Iowa State in the Big 12 title game.
“It was a relief off of my shoulders,” he said. “It was a long time coming. I didn’t stop working. I kept it going. I kept helping the team and doing what we had to do to get to the Big 12 Championship stage.
“Of course, when I got the news, the first thing I did was call my mom. I had to let her know. Once I saw her smile, I knew everything was back on track.”
That’s about the time Haselwood began enduring other issues.
“I don’t really want to get in too deep about it,” he said. “But when I did go home, I did put in a lot of work to get myself ready for the moment, now, with spring ball.”
And the knee, now a year after surgery, feels fine, he said. There is "for sure" a chip on his shoulder to make plays again.
“Physically I feel good,” Haselwood said. “I’m glad to be back. Spring ball, haven’t had spring ball since my freshman year. Definitely a great feeling to be back.”
Two different players from two different backgrounds and two different parts of the country with two different stories.
Yet, their similar arrival, similar expectations and similar circumstances has drawn them together.
“We were there to comfort each other regardless of whatever happened,” Bridges said. “I remember speaking to Jadon the day he got his surgery. I didn’t even say too much. I texted him and I said, 'This is just a minor setback for a major comeback. And we’re gonna bounce back and we’re gonna get right back to where we started.’”
And that support was reciprocated.
“Maybe I wasn't feeling it this type of day,” Bridges said, “but then he'd come to me, he’d give me some words of encouragement, and we went on about our day and we did what we had to do.”
“Basically,” said Haselwood, “we were just keeping each other up. We both are playmakers, of course, and we know that we could for sure help our offense.
“It wasn’t easy for both of us. He made a mistake and I got hurt. But mentally we’ve still got to be there. We can’t just be cowards and turn our back on our team.”