Um, we're screwed.
Okay, so maybe it's not quite that bad but it's probably not that much better. If either James Hanna or Trent Ratterree were coming back next year, sure you're not ecstatic about the position but with both graduating you can't help but feel pretty worried. Without Hanna or Ratterree and the news this week that Austin Haywood will not be returning and Max Stevenson giving up football, the Sooners will be without a single returning scholarship player at TE.
This is a problem.
As it stands today, the only options OU even has at TE heading into 2012 is a recently signed JUCO player, a verbally committed would be true freshman, and a would be redshirt freshman currently listed on the roster who I've never heard of. Not exactly inspiring a ton of confidence.
The Starter: Brannon Green
At this point, I'm not sure how you could assume anyone else as the starter. Green is the JUCO player referenced above and by all accounts is a nice, solid player. There have been some pictures from his recent visit to Norman and from some other sites that have shown this kid to be a physical monster. He's been compared by many to a 'Brody Eldridge-type' TE and you should take that to mean more of a style than talent necessarily. Which means he's expected to be used much more as a blocker than as a receiving threat. And honestly that's not necessarily a bad thing as a physical presence like Green presents at TE would be a very good thing for this offense especially if Heupel would ever run the ball. However at the same time that kind of one dimensional player will also somewhat hurt your offense because the defense will know he's not a likely threat to be a receiving target.
The Reserves: Laith Harlow & John Phillip-Hughes
We can start with John Phillip-Hughes because it will be pretty quick. Have you ever heard of this guy? Because I haven't. I'm assuming he's a walk-on. According to his bio, he's from Tulsa (Edison h.s.) and that's the extent of my knowledge on him.
Harlow is a current verbal commit for the class of 2012 and would likely not arrive until the summer. He's also coming off back surgery and while it wasn't a "major" operation necessarily, and kind of procedure on your back, at that age, and at a physically demanding position like TE has to be at least a little concerning. Harlow is probably a better athlete than Green, but he's also not a guy that is going to present a major receiving threat down the field. The guy I'd use as a comparison for Harlow is Joe Jon Finley. He's the kind of guy that could be a very solid contributor, can get open fairly regularly, and might sneak behind the defense on occasion but isn't going to be a guy defenses have to focus on.
That is literally all the options they currently have and that's assuming that Harlow honors his verbal (which to be fair is almost 100% assured of happening). Now they're still in on the nation's #1 TE for the class of 2012 in Taylor McNamara out of California and given the lack of options ahead of him I'm not sure how he could choose another school, but the talk as of late is that while he is high on OU his family might feel it's too far away.
So as you can see, things are not exactly looking all that promising for the TE position and the Sooners in 2012. I can't help but fear that the infrequency with which we saw them used this year will only get worse (which I wouldn't have thought was possible) unless something drastically changes between now and next September.