NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma’s identity has undergone drastic changes since Nick Basquine arrived in 2014.
OU's head coach and defensive coordinator have changed, three quarterback battles have been decided and the Sooners’ home venue no longer opens at the southern corners of the stadium.
Basquine’s redshirt season in 2014 and medical hardship waiver paved the way for the receiver to enjoy a third year in Lincoln Riley’s offense this season.
Two Achilles’ tendon tears took the former Norman North star away from the field. He's hoping he can make up for it, however, with the extra year the NCAA granted him in April.
“I've seen a lot of faces,” Basquine said. “I’ve seen a lot of people, great players, too. I'm just trying to be next in line.”
Basquine, who is almost 24, came to OU as a walk-on receiver but eventually earned a scholarship.
He caught 20 passes for 265 yards — two of which went for touchdowns — in 2016 and recorded seven receptions for 134 yards in 2018.
Basquine feels this fall camp performance has been one of his best since arriving to campus, and Riley name-dropped him as a player OU needs to step up as a leader this season.
“It’s fun to see [Basquine] now,” Riley said. “He’s as healthy as he’s ever been. The experience he has. The fresh legs that he had during Baker’s junior year, when (Basquine) made a lot of plays for us. He’s in a great place mentally. He brings a toughness and edge to our receiver room.”
Returning to his old self required time.
Basquine described himself as timid in the first few days back from a 2017 season-ending injury.
“You've been working your whole rehab process to get back,” Basquine said, “and then when you finally do, it's like, it's now or never. It's kind of that feeling to it. But you just get more comfortable with time, time heals everything.”
The 5-foot-11 receiver has shown capability of big receptions, including a career-high, 62-yard touchdown catch against Louisiana-Monroe in 2016.
His recovery process required him to trust in his body. Although, Basquine has seen concrete evidence of his improvement through the GPS devices the players wear during practice that track their performance.
Mentally, it still took patience for him to be an effective pass-catcher in 2016 and 2018.
“The biggest thing is knowing it's your body,” Basquine said. “Like you know how you feel. But also you gotta risk it or push yourself outside your comfort zone. And then once you take that first step or whatever that move is for you that you've been timid about. You make sure that you understand that you're finally getting back.”
Basquine's had plenty of people to assist through his up-and-down career as well.
Shepard and former OU receiver Durron Neal occasionally check in with Basquine.
NFL receiver Michael Crabtree, one of Riley's Texas Tech pupils, also helped the OU receiver.
Crabtree suffered a similar injury in 2013 but has appeared in 14 or more games each NFL season since. Basquine admired and has tried to emulate Crabtree's work ethic.
"He didn't feel sorry for himself," Basquine said. "Understand it is what it is, it happened, but you can get back. And it all depends on how you work through the rehab process. If you cheat it, you're not going to get back to where you want to. You put the work in and you'll be just as good if not better."
Basquine certainly feels better as he enters his last season at OU.
He's been in talented receiver rooms before and understands consistency is his only avenue to seeing the field regularly over other wideouts.
This past March, he wasn't sure if he'd even be playing. But he's confident his goals can be met.
"[I just want to] close it out on a good note," Basquine said, "but I'm taking it personal definitely. It's been a long journey and I've seen a lot of people have their dreams of success be made and I feel like it's my time to do that. Obviously, I'm a team-first player, but at the same time I have individual goals I want to meet and catch a lot of balls as well."