It goes without saying that this team will not be able to "replace" Ryan Broyles and all the things he contributed both on and off the field. But the fact remains they have to play their remaining games without him so moving on is a necessity. It also goes without saying that it will take a collective group effort to attempt to make up for his production and I thought Redhawk phrased it incredibly well last night on the podcast. If you look at it like Kenny Stills stepping up to take Broyles' place, Jaz Reynolds stepping up to take Stills' place, and then the other candidates we're about to discuss stepping up into Reynolds' place it doesn't sound as quite a daunting of a task I feel like.
While that approach may be the most calming for Sooner Nation, I'm not sure it's the most accurate. I think you have to take a two pronged approach to the premise and ask who will actually move into that slot WR spot and separately, what collection of guys will help to fill the void in terms of actual production. Meaning, I don't think Stills now moves into the slot to replace Broyles. Obviously #85 was a mainstay on the offense in that position and as such, very few guys have received a significant amount of reps at slot WR.
So assuming Stills stays on the outside, the next question is does Jaz Reynolds move inside to the slot? My first inclination is to say no, but I wouldn't go so far as to write it in pen (if that makes sense). I think they'll work Reynolds some in at slot at times, but I think he still plays a majority of his snaps on the outside along with Stills.
Then you move to the WR who has the most experience, at least in terms of years in the system, which would be senior Dejuan Miller. Miller is a guy who many in Sooner Nation has been expecting big things of throughout his four years in Norman, but for whatever reason has never been able to put things together. He has the size (6'4" 200) to dominate and the physical ability to get open, but much like Stills he isn't getting moved inside to the slot WR spot. So you would have to think if Miller is the guy who steps his game up, that would force Reynolds inside to the slot.
Now the most likely replacement for Broyles in WR Trey Franks. He was working in the slot last year, should know the routes, but has been more than a little disappointing this year. He showed flashes in 2010, so there were expectations coming into 2011 that he would continue to develop and become the speed/deep threat (he was a track star in h.s.) this offense had been missing. This has not happened and in fact Franks missed two games earlier in the year with a team imposed suspension. Maybe he takes advantage of his second chance much in the same way Reynolds has clearly done, but it's one of those things I'm going to have to see first to believe it. He has a world of potential, but seems to struggle at times keeping his feet underneath him and as well as keeping his head in the game.
The darkhorse candidate would appear to be true freshman Kameel Jackson. He is a prototypical slot WR in terms of his size and what he does well on the field. He also showed a knack for getting open in space during summer practices. He was a kid who got playing time earlier this season, which is no small feat considering (1) he's a true freshman who did not enroll early and (2) the depth OU had at WR at that time. These types of injuries, as devastating as they are, always create an opportunity for the guys behind the starter to step up and I would venture to guess Jackson is well aware of the opportunity now in front of him. I just kind of have a funny feeling that he's the guy who sees a significant increase in playing time. I could easily be wrong, maybe the coaches will be hesitant to put a true freshman in there, but Jackson doesn't strike me as your typical true freshman.
Maybe this finally creates an opportunity for guys like Justin McCay or Sheldon McClain, who we've heard the coaches compliment in the past from their play in practice but up to this point have yet to see the field (both are redshirt freshman). Both McCay (6'2" 210) and McClain (6'2" 190) are bigger guys, so they'd probably see more time on the outside than the would in the slot however.
So like we said, it will no doubt have to be a group effort but as you can see it's not as if the Sooners don't have plenty of capable candidates.