One of the biggest concerns going into the season was if junior wide receiver Kenny Stills could make the conversion to the slot position. Stills had already proven that he was a talented outside receiver, but when all-world Ryan Broyles went down with an ACL last season Stills volunteered to move into the slot and disappointing results.
To his credit Stills did not give up on playing the position and while the summer and training camp was not always easy for him, Stills hung in there and towards the end of camp the red light came on and he began to really play well inside.
That trend continued on Saturday in the season opener against UTEP as Stills was once again the Sooners best receiver catching six passes for 121-yards and one 68-yard touchdown. Stills had one 38-yard pass called back due to a chop block all the way back in the backfield or his stats would have been even more outstanding.
Stills now feels he is a slot receiver and with talented wide outs Justin Brown and Trey Metoyer still getting their footing in the Sooner offense Stills will be counted up upon more than ever to make big plays in the offense.
“I feel like I have a lot to improve on and it being the first game, and I just wanted to come out and set the tone for the season and I feel like I did that somewhat,” said Stills. I do feel like I still have a lot to work on though. I do feel like I am a player/coach and its fun being out there and I feel like it helps me do my job. We are going to move on to next week and I think these kids will continue to fill their heads with the playbook and we will get better and play faster.”
The 68-yard pass late in the first quarter was the think of beauty. Senior quarterback Landry Jones was scrambling to his left to by time and Stills was running a wheel-route on the right sideline. With Jones scrambling to buy time Stills actually stopped running on the right sideline. However, Stills was putting the old give-and-go on the defense and took off down the sideline. Jones saw him and threw a beautiful NFL type pass hitting Stills in stride giving Stills the opportunity to do the rest and race into the end zone.
“I told Landry that he looked great and told him that his footwork looked great and I am happy for him,” said Stills. “He has worked really hard this off-season and its paying off for him.”
“Quarterbacks are never taught to throw across their body and that is what Landry did and he saw me wide open and we were on the same page so it all worked out.
“We had a post route called and he bit on that so it left me wide open and like I said, Landry is on the opposite hash and DB’s aren’t looking for a quarterback to throw it all the way across the field. The corner didn’t think the ball was coming so I got lucky.”
Stills may have gotten lucky on that play, but his talent and improvement is not based on luck. It is based on talent, a desire to be great and a desire to help the Sooners offense and by the looks of things Jones will has another slot receiver he can count on this season.