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The NCAA clears Oklahoma's explosive transfer receiver just days before the biggest rivalry game of the season.
When the Sooners take the field Saturday against Texas you'll want to keep an eye out for #14. That is the jersey number for junior receiver Jalen Saunders, a transfer from Fresno State. On Wednesday Saunders was cleared by the NCAA to play for Oklahoma this season. It had been thought that he would be cleared back in August, but when the NCAA denied his waiver the university filed an appeal.
Now that he has been cleared to play we should probably get to know a little bit more about him. To help us do just that we reached out to Jake Trotter from ESPN's Sooner Nation.
CCM: What was Jalen Saunders' plight to Oklahoma?
JT: Saunders wasn't happy about the way he was being used in the new regime at Fresno State. He had been a downfield threat under Pat Hill, but Tim Deruyter was trying to use him as an underneath slot receiver. There was also obviously a medical reason for why he came to Oklahoma, which is why he was ultimately cleared, but no one has been very specific about what that was.
CCM: What would he add to this current receiving corps?
JT: He brings speed and experience. Saunders was second in the nation last year in yards per catch. That could be a huge boon to a team that's completing only 26 percent of its passes of 20 yards or more (compared with 46 percent last year).
CCM: Is it realistic to expect him to play on Saturday and could he even be a factor?
JT: Bob Stoops said he's going to play. Now how much probably depends on a number of factors. But they'll have a package for him, I would bet. If he gets loose down field or gets the ball on a reverse or something, he could be a factor.
When considering the potential impact that Saunders could have on Saturdays Red River Shootout it's important to keep a few things in mind.
First, Saunders is not a freshman or a JUCO transfer. The kid is experienced in top level college football and already has a successful track record. He was all-conference last season and was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list.
Second, he has skill. As a sophomore for Fresno State, last year, he produced 1,065 receiving yards with 12 scores, which were the most touchdowns by any receiver in the WAC.
Third, he's fast! Of his 50 receptions in 2011, ten of them went for 44 yards or longer. He averaged 21.4 yards per catch last season, including two touchdown receptions of 80 yards or more.
Saunders made a good enough impression upon his arrival in Norman that in fall camp he was working with the first-team offense. Due to his experience, there's not going to be much of a learning curve. That is why I believe Oklahoma can use him immediately on Saturday. Can he be the "X-factor" that makes a difference in the game? Yes! Will he be? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Speaking of Jake Trotter he'll be at the Bevo Bash tomorrow in Marietta, OK from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Stop by on your way to Dallas to get an autographed copy of his book, "I Love Oklahoma, I Hate Texas."