Friday, February 15, 2013
Position breakdown: Wide receiver
By Jake Trotter
NORMAN, Okla. -- Outside of Ryan Broyles, receiver has been an up-and-down position for the Sooners in recent seasons.
In 2012, however, Oklahoma was formidable at the position. So formidable, in fact, that OU went almost exclusively with a four-wide receiver set the second half of the season.
Half of that foursome is now gone, with Justin Brown graduating and Kenny Stills leaving early to enter the NFL draft. But enough pieces remain for the Sooners to be strong at wideout again.
Trey Metoyer lost his starting job in 2012 but will likely be a key contributor next season.
Jalen Saunders will take over for Stills as the primary receiver. Even though Stills led OU in receiving, Saunders was the most efficient receiver the second half of the season, leading the Sooners in targets completed and yards after the catch. What will be interesting to watch is how wide receivers coach Jay Norvell uses Saunders this year. OU is void of experienced outside receivers -- that’s where Brown and Stills played -- but a rising star on the inside in Sterling Shepard, who started opposite Saunders in the slot last season. Saunders actually spent his first two years at Fresno State on the outside, so he should be comfortable there. More likely, Norvell will bounce Saunders around both spots, similar to way he did with Broyles two years ago.
The Sooners will need to mine another outside receiver or two, but there’s no dearth of options. Trey Metoyer, who started as a true freshman at the beginning of last season, struggled to sync with quarterback Landry Jones and eventually lost his role in the rotation. Metoyer had a fabulous spring last year and should feel re-energized by the new year and new quarterback.
Durron Neal, who actually played more than Metoyer down the stretch last season, is another talented rising sophomore and will fight Metoyer for time on the outside along with junior college transfer Lacoltan Bester.
The Sooners have three other intriguing options at receiver who could factor into the rotation. Redshirt freshman Derrick Woods answered questions in the fall about whether he was an offensive or defense player, earning co-offensive scout team player of the year honors along with quarterback Trevor Knight. Woods is capable of playing on the inside or outside and gives Norvell more versatility to work with.
Freshman Dannon Cavil, who got interested in the Sooners late in the recruiting process, has enrolled early and will take part in spring ball. At 6-foot-5, Cavil has intriguing size and could push for time on the outside, especially if Neal or Metoyer struggles.
Senior Jaz Reynolds watched all of last season from the sideline as he served a suspension d=for violating team rules last spring. Reynolds has proven in his past he can make big plays downfield. But he hasn't proven he can stay out of Bob Stoops’ doghouse long enough to make a consistent impact.
The Sooners have three freshmen -- Austin Bennett, K.J. Young and Jordan Smallwood -- who will be arriving on campus this summer, too. All three will be given a chance to contribute immediately but will have to excel during two-a-days to avoid redshirting.