There exists a relatively small amount of continuity in college football. Due to the nature of amateur and professional ball, a program’s best and brightest will bolt for the NFL sooner (no pun intended) rather than later.
Because of that, it’s always nice when you can bolster your receiving corps with a grad transfer like Jeff Badet after losing a massive playmaker.
This time last spring, the media and fans alike wondered who could fill Sterling Shepard’s size 11s. ‘Of course, nobody could quite replace Shepard,’ they said, and it was true: he was a special, unique talent, evident by his early success in the NFL.
And then came DeDe Westbrook. The signs were there -- the breakaway speed, the nimble moves, but he never quite put it together in his first season with the Sooners. Last season, he broke out in a big way. Like Shepard, Westbrook’s ultimate destination was playing on Sundays. If I need to remind you what he did last season, you have a pretty short memory.
Enter Jeff Badet. The grad transfer out of Kentucky is 6’, 180 lbs (for reference, he’s almost exactly the same size as Westbrook). As our Jack Shields points out, he’s got everything you’d want in a wide receiver skill-wise: soft hands, great ball skills, and excellent open field speed and playmaking ability.
In a run-heavy Kentucky offense, Badet tallied 670 yards on 32 catches — that’s 21.6 yards per reception. He also averaged 22.6 yards per kickoff return.
Badet could be this season’s breakout star. With a quarterback like Baker Mayfield at the helm, his true potential will be unleashed.
I don’t want to minimize the contributions of guys like A.D. Miller, Mark Andrews, Dahu Green, and Jeffrey Mead. This could change, but (with the possible exception of Andrews), no other receiver seems poised to make a stark leap from last season’s production.
There will be a lot of balls to go around in the absence of Westbrook and Geno Lewis. In an offense that has few proven playmakers, Badet’s big play ability can be, pardon the expression, Westbrookian:
Lincoln Riley uses short throws sometimes to mix it up, but his roots are in the Air Raid. Spreading out the field has been a huge weapon for Riley’s offense when combined with Mayfield’s mobility. Expect to see plenty of deep routes for Badet too:
And it’s not like Badet was playing against, say, Mountain West or Conference USA defenses: he matched up against top-flight SEC defenses every single week. Against blue-chip talent, Badet was able to line up inside, outside, in the slot — wherever he needed to be. That versatility will suit him incredibly well at OU.
By all accounts, Badet is ready to work and prove himself an asset. He wouldn’t uproot himself from Kentucky, a place he clearly loves based on a quick scroll through his social media. He’s coming here to work; Bob Stoops, Lincoln Riley, and the Sooner coaching staff wouldn’t go through the hassle of bringing Badet in if they weren’t convinced of that.
And he’s saying all the right things so far, like in this interview with Sooner Scoop’s Josh McCuistion:
"I told (the Oklahoma coaches) I don’t want anything given to me. I understand (coaches) telling me this and that, but it’s part of me coming in and working hard and that’s another way of earning guys’ trust on the team. Also, not just a guy who already comes in and has a spot but a guy who works hard and will earn it," he said. "The coaches were really just telling you everything you need to believe, that was something that hurt me coming out of high school. I just took it all in and then really is trying to hear what everybody else is trying to sell me.
"I really tell the schools showing me this and that, I just want to sit down in the meeting room and I’m not a big guy about showing me this and that because really I’m going to be there for six months. Just show me things in the meeting room and have facts behind them of things you want to do."
Badet is still working on graduating from Kentucky and will join the team for summer practice and fall camp. Because of that, it may take him some time to get acclimated. It may take a few weeks for him to get into a rhythm with Mayfield. I believe that, by the end of the season, Badet will be the clear cut go-to receiver for the Sooner offense.
I’m not saying that Badet will be the next great receiver in a long, long line of them. Just don’t be surprised if he proves to be a very valuable asset to an offense that could use a playmaker of Badet’s caliber. He’s got the skills, the pedigree, and the want-to that could make him a special addition.