Looking Ahead: Wide Receivers

Coming into last season, the wide receiver core was very high on talent, but low on experience. When the Sooners entered training camp, there was only one receiver on the roster with a catch. Then, the Sooners received two transfers that would later prove to be huge assets to the offense. After the fallout at Penn State, many players were transferring to various schools around the country. The Sooners struck big when they received the news that Justin Brown had decided to transfer to Oklahoma for his senior season. This gave the wide receiver core not only some much needed experience, but a very quality option on the outside.

Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard will be big options at the slot.

More good news was to come, as the Sooners picked up another transfer from Jalen Saunders, who had over 1,000 receiving yards the previous season at Fresno State. In a short amount of time, the wide receiver core went from being a question mark, to one of the best groups in the country.

The production from the wide receivers was very high last season, but with Justin Brown graduating, and Kenny Stills foregoing his senior season for the NFL draft, the Sooners must now find two replacements at the outside receiver position.

Inside/Slot Receiver: Just three days before the Sooners were set to take on Texas in the Cotton Bowl, the NCAA granted immediate eligibility to Jalen Saunders. At the time, the news was big. But it would have been hard for anyone to imagine the kind of season he would end up having. When Jalen Saunders was inserted into the lineup, the offense took off. His knack to find open holes in the defense and create plays after the catch brought back memories of Ryan Broyles. In just nine games, Saunders had 62 receptions for 829 yards and three touchdowns. He will enter his senior season as the number one receiver in the offense.

A sooner legacy to the late Derrick Shepard, his son, Sterling Shepard, became a fan favorite almost the day he stepped on campus. As a true freshman, Shepard played in all 13 games, and showed signs that he will be every bit as good as his father was. His 621 yards was the third-highest total by an OU freshman, and his 45 receptions rank fourth all-time amongst OU freshman. Shepard made his first career start in the Kansas State game, where had 108 yards and one touchdown. He would later start three more games on the year. This season, he will become an even bigger role in the offense. Expect a lot of productivity this season from Shepard.

After redshirting last season, Derrick Woods will have the opportunity to earn playing time in the offseason. Woods was a four-star recruit by 247Sports in the 2012 class, and also participated in the U.S. Army All-American game. He’s another player in the group with a lot of upside, and should see playing time in the upcoming season.

Outside Receiver: After spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy, Trey Metoyer came into the season with extremely high expectations. After having a huge day in the spring game, Metoyer was the talk of the team, and pegged by most publications as the preseason Big 12 freshman of the year. He would start the opener against UTEP, but struggled most of the season with his route running. By the middle of the season, he was lost in the shuffle behind Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, and struggled to see playing time. He finished the year with 148 yards on 17 receptions and one touchdown. This season, he will be expected to be a main contributor on the outside. His improvement with route running will be critical, as he’ll more than likely be a starter when the Sooners take the field on August, 31st against the UL-Monroe Warhawks.

Another true freshman who saw action last year, was Durron Neal. He appeared in nine games, and had 62 yards on four receptions. He has the ability to play both outside and in the slot which will give him the opportunity to see the field more frequently. Expect to see Neal more involved in the offense this year.

A big question in the off-season will be if Bob Stoops reinstates, Jaz Reynolds. There are indications that it could be a possibility, but from the outside, it seems like it will depend on his actions throughout the off-season. If he does return, it will give the Sooners a very skilled play-maker on the outside. Due to disciplinary problems, Reynolds didn’t play a down last year after his breakout season in 2011. If he returns, he could very well make his way into a starting role.

Jaz Reynolds could return for the 2013 season.

After playing in a very limited role last season, Lacolton Bester will enter his senior season looking to make more of an impact. Last season, Bester had just 29 yards on three receptions. His playing time might hinge on whether Reynolds returns to the team or not. If he doesn’t, Bester will have the opportunity to see a good amount of playing time.

Once again, the Sooners have multiple wide receiver commits in this year’s recruiting class. Austin Bennett of (Manvel, Texas) is a three-star recruit and the No. 61 receiver in the country by 247Sports. He finished his senior season with 676 yards on 42 receptions and eight touchdowns. KJ Young, a recent commit, is ranked as a three-star and the No. 98 receiver by 247Sports. He finished the year with 1,593 yards on 91 receptions and 18 touchdowns. The newest commit, Dannon Cavil, was a Cal commit until he switched to the crimson and cream earlier this week. Cavil is also a three-star, and finished the year with 720 yards on 33 receptions and seven touchdowns. Jordan Smallwood, of Jenks, is also a commit and finished his high school career by winning a state championship.

Even though both Stills and Brown are gone, there will still be a high amount of production at wide receiver. The mixture of experience and talent will be huge for whoever prevails in the quarterback battle this off-season.

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