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Who Can Replace Sterling Shepard?

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In the absence of Sterling Shepard, the Sooners must find their next big play threat

Capital One Orange Bowl - Clemson v Oklahoma Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

I need not remind you that Sterling Shepard will not be on the sidelines of Owen Field on Saturdays this season. He’ll be too busy resting up for Sundays in MetLife Stadium, or wherever the Giants happen to be playing.

Despite this, the media consensus seems to be that Oklahoma will have one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses this season. Baker Mayfield will throw ropes across the field on his front foot while improvising; Samaje Perine will literally run over defenders, and Mixon will be deadly if he finds open field. There are several backs more than ready to step up in case one or both of the big ones go down to injury.

But the biggest area of concern for Lincoln Riley’s offense will be the receiver corps. There’s a lot of relatively unproven talent, but also a lot of opportunity: with defenses likely loading up against the run on the Sooners, the wide receivers will have a lot of open field to navigate.

The obvious successors for Shepard’s replacement (and only replacing Shep in the most literal sense) are the leading returning receivers: DeDe Westbrook and Jarvis Baxter. The two had a combined 66 catches for 961 yards last year. Look for the pair to improve on those totals this season.

Also keep an eye on young guns like freshman Mykel Jones and sophomore Nick Basquine. Bob Stoops spoke highly of Jones at media day, and Mayfield added to the praise, describing the wideout as “very quick and very shifty. He has great ball skills. He can jump. He plays big and is very explosive."

Basquine—a walk-on for the Sooners hailing from Norman North—has also impressed the staff. Lincoln Riley praised big-play ability and his blocking skills, adding that he sees Basquine as a guy who will fit heavily in the wideout rotation.

Finally—and perhaps most intriguingly of all—Mark Andrews may be the x-factor the Sooners need at the wideout position. Last season he emerged from nowhere as a tight end, but it seems as if the Sooners will use him as a reciever this season. At 6’5”, 250 lbs., Andrews is a walking mismatch. Baker Mayfield himself said that Andrews’ production will likely double this year with Shepard out. Considering that he had seven touchdowns last season, those are some pretty lofty words from Baker.

Sterling Shepard left some pretty big shoes to fill, but it seems like there’s little need to worry. Considering the fact that Bob Stoops has turned out one elite receiving corps after another, there won’t be a dearth of production from the wideout spot.