The Oklahoma Sooners have had no shortage of talent at the wide receiver position over the past few years. It is a large part of why the Oklahoma has been successful on the offensive side things. This season will be no different for Bob Stoops as he saw a general increase at the position with a loaded 2013 class full of not only freshmen but also transfers.
The biggest challenge to overcome and change for this group comes by way of graduating senior Justin Brown as well as junior, Kenny Stills declaring his status for the NFL Draft. Subsequently, both of these players were considered to be outside threats with Stills also accustomed to playing in the slot and will need to be replaced as starters.
During the 2011 season, Ryan Broyles was an unstoppable force in the Sooners offense. Unfortunately the group was forced to replace their fearless leader and most productive player due to injury. This, of course, thrust Stills to the forefront and into the spotlight. Now, with Stills out, Oklahoma will be looking to replace what many, not all, considered to be the best option at receiver in Stills.
The Obvious Option: Jalen Saunders - After leading the way for Fresno St., Saunders made the decision to jump to the Big 12 Conference and join the Oklahoma Sooners. Initially, the NCAA ruled Saunders as ineligible to play for the 2012 season, a decision that was later overturned. The decision gave Saunders the opportunity to showcase his abilities on one of the biggest stages in the Cotton Bowl in a heated rivalry against the Texas Longhorns.
It is important to note that Saunders not only has a top tier skill set, he also possesses speed and experience. Playing in a total of nine games during the 2012 season, he racked up 892 yards on 63 receptions along with three touchdowns.
A Nice Compliment: Sterling Shepard - Early on Shepard began to show signs of a bright future ahead. He quickly garnered comparisons to none other than Ryan Broyles. While those are some lofty expectations to put on a freshman's shoulders, there is some merit to such compliments. With the speed and ability to cut quickly, Shepard is an athlete with play-making ability. Experience will continue to do this kid wonders moving forward.
In 2012, Shepard played in all 13 games as a freshman while getting four starts. During that span, Sterling caught 45 passes for 621 yards with three scores.
A Battle Shall Ensue: Trey Metoyer vs The Challengers - The Oklahoma fan base could not have been more excited about a recruit in recent history. Failing to qualify academically, Metoyer found himself at a prepatory school, Hargrave Academy, that would not only preserve a year of eligibility but also allow him to meet the academic standard. Once arriving on campus, this kid found a ton of attention and was able to back it up with his performances on the field during not only during practices, but also the Spring Game. Let's not forget this is still a kid with tremendous potential, it simply did not pan out for him as a freshman. Timing was off with Landry Jones while the clearance of Saunders pushed Stills back to the outside. Eventually, Metoyer found himself taking a backseat.
I have not written this kid out as I believe he is the early favorite to win that third starting receiver spot.
The Challengers: Lacolton Bester - Lacking a sizable deep threat, the Sooners picked up JUCO transfer Bester who stands 6-3 205. The notion is that, universities aren't picking up JUCO kids to sit them on the pine. However, in Bester's case, he wasn't able to make a significant contribution on the field due to various reasons. In 12 games, Bester recorded only three receptions for 27 yards.
Durron Neal - With the talent coming in alongside Neal, the battle to crack the depth chart would be steep. With that said, Neal is a great talent with shiftiness about him that allows him to get around defenders. He shows signs of unmatched acceleration and is fantastic athlete. In nine games, Neal caught four passes for 62 yards.
Jaz Reynolds - Off the field incidents have been the downfall of Reynolds. After witnessing Broyles going down, Reynolds rose to the occasion giving Oklahoma fans something to get excited about. Time after time, this was a kid who came up with an acrobatic catch. At this point, Jaz very well could be a flash in the pan as he was reinstated to the team but failed to make his way onto the field. It is still an uphill battle for this kid but he has experience on his side as a senior.
Last Minute Arrivals: Dannon Cavil - As the initial scholarship offer arrived for the 6-5 205-pound Cavil from the University of Oklahoma. To change his commitment from Ole Miss to Cal then to Oklahoma in less than a month span seemed ludicrous, yet that was the case. Moving along, Cavil had another change of heart and decided to enroll at OU early and will participate in Spring practices while looking to make an immediate impact. With his size and skill set, he could be the next freshman to crack the depth chart and make an impact downfield.
Cavil will have a jump start over the other three incoming freshmen wide receivers in Austin Bennett, Jordan Smallwood, and KJ Young.
When it comes to tight ends, there is a two man battle as they will not face any departures unless you consider Geneo Grissom moving to defensive end. In recent years, the Oklahoma Sooners have moved away from the TE playing a significant part in the offense especially in the redzone. With the current scheme that Oklahoma has been running, the blocking tight end has an upper hand over the competition. Enter Brannon Green, who is a highly respected run-blocker and the sole reason Oklahoma recruited him. While that has become what Green is known for, he is sneakily better than you think in the receiving game. Playing in 11 games, Green caught 3 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown (remember the lack of involvement in the receiving game of TEs is due to the scheme of OU).
Behind him will sit Taylor McNamara who received a medical redshirt last season. Considering that the Sooners list only a single TE on the depth chart, the backup could be anyone's guess, but you have to like what McNamara brings to the table. While he is not quite the run-blocker that Green is, he still possesses the greatest threat downfield of any TE currently listed on the roster.