Fans of the Oklahoma Sooners have long been hearing his name since he was a highly-touted recruit as a senior in Patterson, Louisiana two years ago. A standout on both sides of the ball and a late addition to the recruiting class on National Signing Day, Mykel Jones arrived at Oklahoma in 2016 with the flashy tag of a national top-20 wide receiver according to Rivals.
Seeing the field in 12 games but failing to develop into a consistent contributor, Jones caught 13 passes for 106 yards as a freshman last season — 48 of those yards coming against Louisiana Monroe — but failed to come down with a single catch after the Baylor game on November 12. He was still a part of the rotation all season but didn’t break into the offense more than just a handful of snaps per game.
Jones recently discussed his suddenly expanding role in OU’s offense with The Oklahoman’s Ryan Aber following the heart-breaking injury suffered by walk-on redshirt junior Nick Basquine last week in practice. Jones conveyed that he’s though he’s deeply saddened by the injury to his friend and teammate, he’s ready to step up in Basquine’s absence — perhaps now with more motivation than ever.
The two players had grown especially close as they competed all last season for playing time at the same position and improved each other’s game in practice every day since then and through this offseason. But now in Basquine’s sudden and unfortunate absence, Jones, who has enjoyed a productive spring and summer, may finally find himself with the increased playing time and wiggle room he needs to truly shine in Oklahoma’s offense.
Newcomers Marquise Brown and Jeff Badet, along with walk-on Lee Morris and highly-touted freshmen Charleston Rambo and CeeDee Lamb, will likely also see more targets as a result of Basquine’s injury, but none of them outside of Badet have taken a single snap in major college football. Jones, on the other hand, has at least enough experience in the offense to come in confident and ready to contribute right away. First-year head coach Lincoln Riley and Heisman-hopeful quarterback Baker Mayfield sure hope so, as Basquine had quickly become a team and fan favorite through last season.
But not many of us foresaw Dede Westbrook’s meteroric rise to the top of college football’s wide receiver ranks in 2017, as the 2016 Biletnikoff winner was largely overshadowed by former star Sterling Shepard the season before. Perhaps Jones, who is still only a sophomore, could also quickly grow into a similar or at least a highly effective weapon in the Sooners’ offense. At 5-11, 186 pounds, Jones possesses a similar build and skill set to Dede and should see the playing time and targets to begin showcasing his talents right away.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. The Sooners’ pass-catching core in 2017 appears to be a deep, capable committee full of explosive, promising prospects. But it’s no secret that it’s also alarmingly unproven and inexperienced. Basquine, a walk-on redshirt junior, was expected to step up as an elder statesman, but it is now Mykel Jones who returns as the second-leading pass catcher on OU’s roster behind tight end Mark Andrews.
It should be no surprise that Jones is ready and willing to accept the challenge, though. He seems poised, if not determined, to become Baker Mayfield most consistently counted-on weapon and knows the opportunity that’s in front of him. He can also be confident in the support of his positional coach, as OU assistant Cale Gundy had already been planning on deploying Jones often even with a healthy Basquine on roster.
If Mykel Jones’ play on the field is as grand as his heart and the growing expectations on his plate, then the Sooners’ may not have to wait long for the next signature pass-catcher to emerge at Oklahoma.