DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 8: Kenny Stills #4 of the Oklahoma Sooners catches a touchdown pass over Adrian Phillips #17 of the Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl on October 8, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. The Sooners defeated the Longhorns 55 to 17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
If there is one spot on the OU offense in 2012 where the Sooners don't figure to be short of options it's wide receiver. Or at least that's how things stand as I type this, but given the mass exodus that is currently purging this roster I suppose we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. We won't speculate on who is here now and who might not be in a month or two, but rest assured it's no coincidence that OU already has four commitments at WR and still working hard on landing several more.
While there will be a good amount of returning talent, there also figures to be a boat load of young talent coming to campus who could see early playing time. And if Josh Heupel's first year as OC was any indication there will be plenty of opportunities to catch passes in this offense next year.
No real stunners here as these are the only guys returning (or at least expected to return) with any real playing experience. I still maintain Stills played most of the year hurt and it had a noticeable impact on his performance. Assuming he comes back healthy and motivated to prove he can be that true #1 threat I think he could be in for a big season. Reynolds is still recovering from an apparently pretty serious kidney injury, but Stoops said during his Monday presser that his 2012 season should not be in jeopardy. Jackson, at this point, is the mystery in that he's pretty much untested. He saw the field this past season, which was no small feat considering he earned a spot during the summer when OU was at full strength and WR was quite deep at that time.
Looking at that starting three, I feel pretty good about it. Really like both Stills and Reynolds on the outside and Jackson always struck me as a perfect fit for the slot. He'll need to do a better job of holding onto the ball next year, but his drops this year were at least somewhat understandable for a true freshman.
These may or may not be the guys I was alluding to in the open, but I'll let you decide that. We obviously don't know anything about McClain because in two years, one being a redshirt, he's yet to take a single snap. Reports in the past have been that he's got good hands and knows how to use his body to create separation. However much like we talked about with Justin McCay, it's a little concerning that after all the injuries/drops from the OU WRs late in the season he still couldn't convince the coaches to put him in.
As for Franks, well if you've read anything I've ever written about the guy here you probably know my thoughts. His baffling tendency to trip over his own feet or lose his balance without even being touched defies all laws of physics. He seemed to be heading in the right direction coming off a decent true freshman season, but then seemed to take a step backwards this past season failing to make any kind of real impact in the offense.
The Youth Movement . . .
Assuming the four verbal commitments the Sooners currently have do in fact sign, it could be a potentially elite and well needed WR class. As it stands today OU has verbal commitments from the #1 overall prep WR and five star Trey Metoyer, the #7 overall WR and four star Durron Neal, the #16 overall WR and four star Derrick Woods, and the #23 overall WR and four star Sterling Shepard. Incredibly impressive to say the least and they are actively recruiting at least three more five star WR recruits.
You probably know the story about Metoyer already, he was originally a member of the 2011 class but failed to qualify academically. He had to go the prep school route, but did not lose a year of eligibility so he'll still have four years at OU and by all accounts is on track to enroll in January. I have little doubt that he is talented enough that he would have played this past season, even before all the injuries. While he doesn't have elite top end speed, he won't have trouble getting open and when he does he will catch everything that gets even remotely close to him.
Neal was recently named the MO Class 6 Offensive Player of the Year and was a one man wrecking crew for his h.s. team this year. He's an incredibly versatile athlete who could see time at WR, maybe RB, or even in the wildcat if Heupel gets super crazy. He could play either on the outside or in the slot in certain sets. He's also a very likely candidate to return punts and/or kicks where he could be a the explosive threat this return game has been missing for years.
Woods is a kid who has the style of a running back playing wide receiver. He's another guy who doesn't have elite speed and yet when you watch his h.s. videos you rarely see him getting caught from behind. He's a little raw in his route running ability, but he has great hands and can make guys miss in the open field. He's another guy who has excelled at returns during his h.s. career and could make an immediate impact at the D-I level as well.
Shepard is an Oklahoma kid who is the son of a former Sooner and an absolute star for his Heritage Hall h.s. team. He has an uncanny resemblance to Ryan Broyles and truthfully is probably a better athlete than the Sooner All-American. Now understand I'm not saying he's going to be the next Ryan Broyles, but he does have the look of something special out of that slot WR spot. I'm a fan of Kameel Jackson, but I will not be stunned if Shepard comes in and immediately gets some snaps in the slot. Shepard's vertical is off the charts and he is amazingly adept at catching the ball at it's highest point. He is a juking machine in the open field and you can see his father in him with respect to his understanding of the game and the WR position.
Wrapping things up, it's going to be an interesting 2012 for the Sooners at the WR position. As you can see here, there is a reason our coaches have four verbals and searching for more. Not a ton of depth or experience behind Stills and Reynolds. So there could be some growing pains, but there definitely not be a shortage of options or talent.