There is no doubt that a lot of Sooner fans attention is going to paid to both the WR and TE position this spring and rightfully so. The Sooners struggled mightily at both spots last year and will need significant improvement in order to return to their rightful spot atop of the division. As you'll see after the jump, both spots are somewhat similar in the fact that they have a couple holdovers from last year as well as plenty of incoming young talent looking to challenge for playing time. Let's get to it.
The Star(ter): Ryan Broyles 5'11"-178-JR
As if you needed a reminder of Broyles explosive capabilities, this video should do the trick.
Ryan Broyles punt return against OSU 11-28-09 (via soonerscott2007)
Not trying to slight the kid, but I doubt many of you need me to explain to you how important Bryoles is to this offense. He was by far OU's most consistent play maker last year and arguably their only remotely reliable play maker on the entire offense. He has been a star in this first two years on the field and there is absolutely no reason to believe that won't continue in 2010. He would be well served to continue to work with Schmitty and add some bulk to his frame this offseason. He's sure to take a pounding this year, but the hope is the emergence of some of the younger kids will help to take some of the load off him this coming year.
Starter: Dejuan Miller 6'4"-224-JR
This kid is a physical specimen and has the ability to be a superstar this year. He is undoubtedly in the top five of players primed to have a breakout year in 2010. I have to admit that typing his measurables out above I am extremely disappointed I had to put the "JR" at the end. I never understood why he didn't redshirt two years ago when the only action he saw was limited at best to mop up duty in blowouts. Both he and Jameel Owens (the kid who transferred to Tulsa after the season) both played completely meaningless snaps in 2008 and it always annoyed me that the coaches totally wasted a year of eligibilty like that. That said, I'm extremely excited about what the next two years have to offer Dejuan, but I'd be a lot more excited about three years.
Anyway, Miller heads into the spring with the #2 WR spot his to lose. He is a guy who was a excellent track athlete in high school (100m & 200m) so you know the kid has got a heck of a motor. Then you take into account his size and he appears to be pretty close to the perfect combination of size and speed. I've been personally begging for the coaches to utilize his size more when they get down in the redzone/goal line area. I mean if he's not a prime target for a fade pass into the endzone I don't know who is and while I normally don't like that route, I like it a lot better if they're throwing it to Dejuan as opposed to someone else (Broyles included). He's also got the size to be used in a goal line package similar to what the coaches used to do with Gresham and we all know how successful that was at putting points on the board. Look for Miller to have a strong spring and head into fall practice having solidified his position as the #2 WR. A big year out of Miller in 2010, to go along with Bryoles expected production, would mean the OU offense could be a lot closer to 2008 than 2009 (and that would be a very, very good thing).
Starter: Jaz Reynolds 6'2"-181-SO
Jaz came into last year probably expecting to feel his way out in his first year on campus and for the first four games of the season that's exactly what happened. However, after two losses in our first four games and repeated struggles at WR by everyone not named Ryan Broyles the coaches turned to the true freshman the week of the Baylor game. His playing time would yo-yo up and down for the most part the rest of the season until the last couple weeks, where he really started to come on strong and show the potential the coaches knew he had that led him out of a possible redshirt year and onto the field. Now he heads into the spring as the third starter and looks to be the down field threat the Sooners need in 2010. His spot is in no way guaranteed, so he will need to continue to show the progression he displayed towards the end of the season or he could easily be pushed for playing time by a number of players we'll discuss below. For now, enjoy some high school highlights of Jaz and imagine him making some of those same plays in a Sooner uniform this year.
WR Jaz Reynolds #16 Junior Year Highlights (via spizzle2691)
Backup: Brandon Caleb 6'1"-187-SR
Caleb has struggled with injuries ever since he arrived on campus and last year was unfortunately no different. By all accounts the kid is a first class human being with a terrific personality who I sincerely hope is able to stay healthy in 2010. One of the things I noticed about him last year was that he was by far and away the best blocking WR we had on the team. Our WRs are asked to block fairly regularly in our system, so it is important that they do so effectively and without drawing the penalty flag. Caleb displayed the ability to do that on a consistent basis last year and I think that combined with it being his senior year will keep him in the coach's favor in 2010.
Backup: Cameron Kenney 6'1"-190-SR
Kenney was a highly touted JUCO transfer last year who at one point was also competing at the kicker/punter position. He had some flashes last year, but for the most part struggled at the D1 level and was very inconsistent catching the ball. He seemed to calm down a little towards the end of the year, but I'm farily confident in saying that even he would tell you last year was a disappointment. Maybe the expectations we had were too high and he will come out and have a strong senior year. He's sure to see time on special teams and could definitely work his way into the rotation at WR if he's able to convince the coaches he can be more reliable than last year.
The Future (or present depending on how you want to look at it): Kenny Stills 6'1"-175-FR
Pretty sure you'll like what you see here.
WR1 Selection for All-San Diego Team: Kenny Stills Jr. (via DaygoAllStarTeam)
Stills comes in as one of the most highly touted 2010 WR recruits in the country and from the highlights above you can see why. One of the best things about Stills is that he is already on campus after a slight issue with the NCAA clearing house preventing his "official" inclusion on signing day. Everyone around the program is talking about this kid's talent and how he could immediately push for playing time. He is the kind of vertical threat that OU was sorely missing last year and could be an enormous addition to the OU offense in 2010. That said, he is a true freshman so expectations need to be tempered accordingly. He definitely needs to put on some muscle this spring/summer and I'm sure Schmitty will see to that. Of all the incoming freshman WRs, Stills definitely has the best chance to see the field in 2010. Unlikely that Stoops would put a true freshman back to return kicks, but I'd be amazed if at some point in his OU career that Stills isn't an exceptional return man.
The Future: Justin McKay 6'3"-200-FR
'10 KS WR/LB Justin McCay (via RedshirtScouting)
This was a pretty cool year to be an OU fan living in the state of Kansas. As most of you I'm sure are well aware, OU signed the top three prospects in KS and I had the pleasure of watching them all play in person at some point. Of the three, McCay was the one I had the chance to watch in person the most and rarely did I come away from his games disappointed (admitted obvious bias aside). Not unlike most elite high school prospects, McCay played on both sides of the ball and was also considered a top LB prospect. Personally, I think OU offering him as a WR was one of the primary reasons they were able to sign him. He was also able to make an official visit to Norman with his father shortly before he suffered the tragedy of his father's passing. I also heard multiple interviews where he discussed his visit and his late father's love of the campus and university and how that also played a significant role in his decision. I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that his father enjoys looking down and watching his son enjoy a hopefully remarkable career during his time in Norman.
McCay, I think, has the potential to remind OU fans of former Sooner Brandon Jones. I big kid who can go up and get the ball over the defender as well as having the speed to get behind the defense. He is a little raw in terms of route running, so I wouldn't be entirely shocked if redshirts this year. That said, the kid is an amazing athlete and given the way our coaches have handled freshman the last couple years I could see him getting on the field at either WR or special teams. Although personally, I'd hate to waste a year of eligibility on him mainly covering kicks.
The Future: Trey Franks 5'9"-165-FR
His size, or lack there of, speaks for itself but he is potentially the fastest member of the 2010 recruiting class. At that size I'm not sure how he can project to anything other than a slot receiver, so he would serve himself well to become Ryan Broyles's shadow once he arrives on campus. I don't think it's a stretch after watching some Rivals film on him (sorry can't link that to hear) to say that he's actually faster than Broyles. Probably not quite as shifty, but then again who is, but that doesn't mean that he can't eventually be just as successful. There aren't many better slot receivers in the country for him to learn from so I certainly hope he takes advantage of the opportunity to learn from Broyles while he still can.
The Future: Sheldon McClain 6'1"-180-FR
McClain is the the second WR (Stills being the other) already on campus this spring which obviously gives him an advantage of the extra practice time in the offense. McClain did not play as a senior last year due to an ACL tear prior to the start of the season. I'm very proud that the OU staff did the respectable thing and honored his scholarship offer (not that I expected anything less). The plus side is the Sooners may have just found one of those diamonds in the rough this staff has become so well known for doing. It will obviously be interesting to see how he comes back from the injury and where exactly he comes out of the spring related to the depth chart. Enjoy some of his junior year highlights below.
Byron P. Steele Sheldon McClain Highlight Video #85 (via shell8485)
The Future: Joe Powell 5'11"-175-FR
If there's one thing you won't be able to question with this kid it's his confidence. He loves to talk and based on some of his film he appears to be pretty adept at making the catch in traffic. He will very likely be given a year to get acclimated to the offense and redshirt in 2010.
The Starter: Trent Ratterree 6'3"-225-JR
I'm not gonna lie Sooner fans, I have absolutely nothing against Mr. Ratterree. So that said, if he winds up being the starter all year at the TE spot I'm going to be pretty disappointed. He's a former walkon and while I certainly respect what he's accomplished at OU by working his way up the depth chart, we're going to need more than he's proven to be capable of up to now if we want to get the most out of our offense. There was going to be the inevitable drop off from Gresham regardless of who took over for him, but the TE position was essentially non-exsistent last year for OU and the offense severely missed the over the middle threat our TEs used to provide.
Backup: James Hanna 6'4"-243-JR
I hesitate to list him as the backup as he failed to make the pre-spring two deep, but the two guys listed below may or may not play a majority of their time at TE this year (but we'll get into that). Hanna, in the past, has been compared to having "Gresham-like ability" but has come nowhere near displaying that ability on the field. He has struggled to find consistent playing time and I think it's pretty obvious the coaches were trying to send him a not so subtle message with that omission from the spring depth chart.
Possible Backup: Eric Mensik 6'6"-265-SR
Apparently reprising his role of converted TE to OL from last year, word has it that OL Coach Patton is very resistent to letting Mensik go back to TE full time. Mensik's performance in the Bedlam game last year was more than impressive and he clearly displayed the ability Coach Patton has apparently latched onto and is unwilling to let go. I expect Mensik to be an important backup lineman this year and see significant playing time as an extra OL/blocking TE in running situations.
Possible Backup: Gabe Ikard 6'4"-252-RS FR
Evidently, Gabe Ikard will be taking over the role of the "new" Brody Eldridge. One of the major surprises the pre-spring depth chart provided was the inclusion of Ikard listed as the backup center. According to a recent radio interview I heard with Kevin Wilson, it sounds like there is serious consideration of moving Ikard to OL permanently. I have to be honest, I'd seen film on Ikard prior to last year and I really thought he was going to be the next great OU TE. I had no idea that he was this good of a blocker and no clue that he had the potential to be moved to OL on a full time basis. He could wind up playing a similar role to the one described above with Mensik, so it will be interesting to see how Wilson, Patton, and the rest of the offensive staff decide to use him this year and in the future for that matter.
OHSSE Gabe Ikard - 2009 Oklahoma Football Recruit (via OKSportsExpress)
The Future: Austin Haywood 6'5"-245-FR (keep in mind Sooner fans, that southpaw QB tossing him those passes is 2011 verbal commit Kendal Thompson)
Austin Haywood (Southmoore OK) - Oklahoma Football Recruit (via OKSportsExpress)
To be fair it's probably more than a little premature, but if there's a kid that deserves to have the "next Jermaine Gresham" tag applied to them it's Austin Haywood. The sky appears to be the limit with this kid and lord knows we need a vertical threat at the TE position. There have been rumors, especially around signing day, that he was a possibility to not qualify academically. However, some of you may know more than myself but I have yet to hear any of that kind of talk since signing day so hopefully it was just an ugly rumor. I think it's unfair to expect Haywood to come in and compete for a starting spot this fall, but as you can see from the discussion above, OU is certainly lacking a play maker of his caliber at the TE spot this year. So while it may be unlikely, he may prove throughout the course of the season to be too talented for the coaches to keep off the field.
As we covered above, there will be plenty of competition at both positions throughout the spring and even more so in the fall when the rest of the class arrives on campus. Both spots are going to require players to step up their performances from 2009 in order to get the Sooner offense back on track and contend for our 7th Big 12 title.