To say this offseason has been crazy for the Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver position would be an understatement. Graduation, suspension, an injection of youth, a really late addition, failures to qualify, and most recently reinstatement it's fair to say the waters have not exactly been calm.
Needless to say, it will be a position that OU fans will have a number of questions about until they have a chance to see them in person. There are just so many new faces, get to know your programs Sooner fans!
(Ed. note - This was done earlier in the week, so some of this will be a touch out of date.)
Jordan: Alright, the wide receiver position has received more than its fair share of attention this offseason. To say it's a fluid situation at the moment would be a considerable understatement. One of the headliners from the 2012 class, Courtney Gardner, is still potentially in jeopardy and news (good or bad) could come basically any day now. Want I want to know from you though is, right now as things stand today, who is the one new arrival you believe will have a significant impact on the offense this season and defend your selection. (You can take Bester if you'd like since he's been cleared, but I know that's not the guy you'll go with).
Matt: Well...I would have gone with Gardner a few hours ago but since the news broke that he's not coming until January leaves me at a bit of a loss. I am a huge fan of Gardner and think that he's going to be a star and honestly am more than a bit bummed that he won't make it this fall.
Stepping away from my pity party for a minute to answer your actual question, I'm going to have to go with LaColton Bester. I think its a given that Metoyer is going to have a significant season but OU needs a threat as a third option and I think that they need that guy to be Bester.
With all things being equal, meaning that outside of Metoyer we haven't seen any of the newcomers, I have to take a JUCO guy who has achieved success over a true freshman who possesses a lot of potential.
Jordan: Interesting. See, I assumed you would pick Metoyer but maybe you were thinking he didn't qualify as a "new arrival" since he was in Norman for spring ball. That's good though, I think it makes this back and forth even better because in my opinion Metoyer is the all too obvious choice.
As for Bester, I'm not sure the whole JUCO thing is the advantage for him that you apparently do. Last year was his first at receiver and while he had considerable success, doing so at that level and doing so at the Oklahoma level are two very different things as I'm sure we can both agree. Now if that was Gardner, a guy who has played receiver most of his career, then I'm on board and in fairness that was your original selection. I'm just of the opinion that even the true freshman could have a better chance of making an impact over a guy (1) still learning the intricacies of the receiver position and (2) making the transition to the D-I level.
So with that said, my pick is going to be Durron Neal. I really, really, really want to pick two guys and also go with Sterling Shepard, but we said one so I'm going to limit myself to just one. Neal was a guy who put up ridiculous numbers in high school and did so from a number of different positions (including wide receiver). I think he is a guy they can move around to a bunch of different spots within the offense and that versatility will only enhance his chances for playing time. I could see him playing in the slot, playing on the outside, they could use him on reverses, they could start him in the backfield and motion him out, heck they'd never do it but I think he could even play some Wildcat if asked.
Plus Neal was an outstanding kick/punt return guy in high school and I'm cautiously optimistic that Stoops & Co. will give him a shot in the return game, so that would be another opportunity for him to make an impact on this team.
Obviously there is no wrong choice in the sense that we, as fans, want them all to succeed. I know we both would be perfectly fine if Bester, Neal, and Shepard all exceed our wildest expectations.
Matt: Here's the thing. With the lack of experience and depth, I believe that OU needs all of those guys we've mentioned (with the addition of Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and the tight ends) to be able to produce because outside of Stills there is no one on the roster who is proven. If Bester, Neal or Shephard can't produce then the Sooner passing attack is going to suffer because the third option is crucial to breaking over the top coverage on your top two targets.
So, I guess I'm with you in saying that I really don't care who it is just as long as someone fills that void and then the others are able to provide quality depth.
Jordan: So, to your point then, just how much does the news of Gardner's, um . . . delay I guess we'll call it, hurt this wide receiving unit? And how much would the return of say a Jaz Reynolds or Trey Franks (are we really this desperate? Apparently so, sigh.) alleviate some of the sting of Gardner not making it in?
Matt: I may be over-hyping a JUCO kid and I'm aware of that. However, when you look at Gardner's body size, speed and hands its clear to me that Oklahoma doesn't have a receiver on the roster who can duplicate it. He would help create the perfect triple threat at receiver.
Getting Reynolds or Franks back would be huge for this offense because of experience alone. Jaz has shown flashes of greatness during his career and let's not forget that Franks led the team in receptions during the Insight Bowl. That said, both have also shown a propensity to make bad choices and you'd have to wonder about reliability and team chemistry should one or both return.
The bottom line is that Oklahoma needs a third option. I'm pretty sure its there but uncertainty never sits well with me. It also brings the question of how much of a concern is depth?
Jordan: I don't think you're over hyping Gardner at all. Granted, even if he had qualified, it would have been difficult for him to come in really late and almost immediately pick up the offense. But there was nothing with respect to his physical abilities that was going to limit him from a playing time standpoint. He was every bit as good as you described and probably then some based on some of the comments I've heard about him.
It's interesting that you mention depth at wide receiver, because at times I've found myself thinking about all the options I believed Oklahoma had and then I go to actually type them out and find myself getting more and more concerned. Without Gardner (and presuming, which I feel is only fair at this point, that none of the suspended guys actually contribute), I think we're only looking at six guys that I can think of as options at wide receiver. And that's included Derrick Woods who I had really hoped would redshirt and/or eventually move to safety. Now, that might not even be a realistic option.
I know it's a long shot, but I'm really holding out hope that somehow, someway, OU can win their appeal for Jalen Saunders to play immediately after transferring from Fresno State. It would be HUGE both from a depth standpoint and also an experience standpoint since Saunders has a bunch of snaps at the D-I level.
So while I agree with you that a third option is vital to this offense, it's also incredibly important that behind those three guys are options Oklahoma can count on. And I think, at least at this point, that's where some of our concern lies, right?
Matt: Sure, it is! You've got to have receivers and right now we know that OU has one in Kenny Stills and we're pretty sure that they have another in Metoyer. Beyond that, we have no idea what is there. Chances are that a good option for a third receiver will pop up in camp (still got my money on Bester) but an injury to any of Oklahoma's receivers is bad news.