Oklahoma Sooners: Jeffery Mead

This week, we’ve been examining the most indispensable player for every team in the Big 12. In other words, who is the player each team could least afford to lose to injury?

We’re knocking on wood before we turn in these posts; so no need to worry about a jinx.

We continue with the Oklahoma Sooners.

Most indispensable player: Receiver Sterling Shepard

[+] EnlargeSterling Shepard and Jackson Jeffcoat
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsSterling Shepard's production will be vital to Oklahoma's success in the passing game in 2014.
2013 stats: Caught 51 passes for 603 yards and seven touchdowns.

Why Oklahoma can’t afford to lose him: A strong case could be made for sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight here. He was spectacular in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and has the skill set to be a star in college football. But it’s difficult to slap the “indispensable” label on a player who has only started and finished three games in his college career.

Last season, Oklahoma’s most indispensable player was do-everything receiver Jalen Saunders. This season, the Sooners’ most indispensable player figures to be another do-everything pass-catcher.

Shepard has been a key part of the Oklahoma offense from the moment he stepped on campus. Through two seasons in Norman, Shepard already has 96 receptions for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns.

With Saunders now a member of the New York Jets, Shepard will take over as the Sooners’ go-to playmaker at receiver. But unlike Saunders, who had Shepard and Lacoltan Bester alongside him, Shepard won’t have an experienced receiver flanking him. That makes Shepard all-the-more indispensable.

After Shepard, Durron Neal is Oklahoma’s second-leading receiver from last season, and he finished with only 13 receptions. Neal also missed spring practice with knee and ankle injuries.

Elsewhere, the Sooners are loaded with inexperience at receiver. Jordan Smallwood, Dannon Cavil and K.J. Young redshirted last season. Austin Bennett and Derrick Woods have been used sparingly. Mark Andrews, Jeff Mead, Michiah Quick and Dallis Todd are incoming true freshmen.

In fact, outside Shepard, the only two returning Sooners who had touchdown catches last year are fullback Aaron Ripkowski and place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt.

That’s why Shepard is so valuable.

He gives the Sooners an unequivocal tone-setter and leader for its extremely young group of receivers. And he gives Knight that one dependable target every budding quarterback requires.
Since last week we’ve been examining at the strongest and weakest position groups for each Big 12 team going into the fall.

We continue with the Oklahoma Sooners:

Strongest position: Defensive line

Pretty obvious choice here for Oklahoma, considering how this unit played in its greatest test yet against Alabama.

Eric Striker gives the Sooners an All-Big 12 defensive end who still has two years left to get even better. He's a playmaker, and senior Geneo Grissom proved against the Tide, with his two sacks and two fumble recoveries, that he can be, too.

We got to see Jordan Phillips in only four games last fall before he was shut down for the season, but the defensive tackle was one of OU's most promising defenders when he was on the field. The trio of Phillips, Chuka Ndulue and Jordan Wade is potent. Keep them healthy, and they can develop into a fearsome group.

What makes this group really stand out, and what probably gets overlooked, is the depth you don't see. While these starters form one of the conference's best defensive lines, the guys behind them will continue to develop in the background.

Some will be called upon when injuries hit, but having young linemen such as Matt Dimon, D.J. Ward, Dwayne Orso Jr. and Courtney Garnett waiting in the wings will mean an exciting future for this line.

Weakest position: Wide receivers

You can't lose a great talent like Jalen Saunders and key seniors Lacoltan Bester and Jaz Reynolds and not be a little concerned with this group.

The Sooners are essentially working with four experienced receivers going into 2014, led by Sterling Shepard. He can't do it all by himself. Among Durron Neal, Derrick Woods and Austin Bennett, quarterback Trevor Knight is going to need to find a couple guys he can trust. There are some redshirt freshmen waiting for their turn, too.

The good news is help is on the way, and it might be elite help. The Sooners signed three skyscrapers in Mark Andrews (6-foot-6), Jeffery Mead (6-6) and Dallis Todd (6-5) and then inked a four-star speedster in Michiah Quick on signing day. Three of those incoming freshmen are ESPN 300 recruits with big expectations.

If a couple are ready when they show up in Norman, this group will instantly get a lot better.
Spring football is just over the horizon.

Oklahoma is coming off a banner 2013 campaign featuring an 11-win season and a Sugar Bowl victory over SEC power Alabama, yet the Sooners have several position groups they need to address if they hope to make a national title run in 2014. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the top five position groups that need to improve during OU’s spring practices. On Thursday, we continue the series with the Sooners receivers at No. 2.

The breakdown

[+] EnlargeDurron Neal, Sterling Shepard
Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma needs Durron Neal (5) to become a reliable playmaker at receiver opposite Sterling Shepard.
On campus: Sterling Shepard, Jr.; Derrick Woods, So.; Durron Neal, Jr.; Austin Bennett, So.; Dannon Cavil, R-Fr.; Jordan Smallwood, R-Fr.; K.J. Young, R-Fr.

Summer arrivals: Mark Andrews, Fr.; Jeffery Mead, Fr.; Michiah Quick, Fr.; Dallis Todd, Fr.

Summary: The Sooners appear on the cusp of having a receiver selected in the NFL draft for the third consecutive season if Jalen Saunders hears his name called in May, following the footsteps of Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills. Yet if OU hopes to make a national title run, its receivers will have to be much more productive in 2014 than they were in 2013. Fortunately the receivers room is overflowing with talent, so the competition to play should be fierce and force everyone to raise their overall level of play.

Shepard, who had 96 receptions for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons, could have an all-conference season as Trevor Knight’s top target and the most experienced receiver on the roster as a junior. He’s competitive, tough and athletic. Spring is his first opportunity to show he can handle being “the man” in the passing game, but there’s no reason to think he’s not ready to carry that burden.

It’s an important season for Neal, who stepped on campus as a highly regarded recruit but hasn’t made as big an impact as Shepard, a fellow Class of 2012 signee. The junior has shown signs of being a playmaker but hasn’t forced his way into the lineup the way Shepard did during their first two seasons. Spring is his chance to show he deserves a bigger role in the offense.

Woods is coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he made an impact on special teams with limited duty on offense. As the former high school quarterback gets more comfortable as a college receiver, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make a major jump from his freshman to sophomore season. Spring will be the first glimpse of his readiness to be a factor at receiver.

Bennett was the lone freshman receiver to escape a redshirt in 2013, playing on special teams. He can be the playmaker in the slot that the Sooners need, particularly with Saunders out of the picture.

At 6-foot-5 and 214 pounds, Cavil brings unique size and good speed. Unlike most 2013 signees, he’s been on campus for a full year, so Cavil should be comfortable with the demands of playing college football and ready to show if he can be an impact player as a redshirt freshman.

There’s been a buzz about Young since his arrival last summer. Comparisons to Broyles have begun thanks to his ball skills and quickness in the slot. The first step for Young, however, is to have a great spring and start proving he can turn his potential into production.

Smallwood might have played as a true freshman if he hadn’t injured his foot before the season began. The coaches love the physicality he brings as a receiver, so this spring should be his first chance to show what he can do in crimson and cream.

Don’t be surprised if Quick makes an immediate impact, even though he could use a year in the Sooners’ strength and conditioning program. A lack of bulk never held Saunders back, so there’s no reason to think Quick won’t use his exceptional talent to overcome any size limitations just like Saunders did.

Andrews has the athleticism and ball skills to be a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. How well he transitions to Big 12 receiver will ultimately decide how quickly he sees the field.

The sky is the limit for Mead, a three-sport star at Tulsa (Okla.) Union, as the recent signee could develop into a major contributor once he starts to focus on football in the fall. He has terrific size and athleticism with plenty of room to grow as a receiver.

Todd (6-5, 210) moves like a much smaller man. His quickness and speed will surprise defenders, yet he maintains the strength expected of someone his size. His unique combination of skills could help him earn a role early in his OU career.

The list

No. 3: Cornerbacks
No. 4: Running backs
No. 5: Tight ends

Recruit and return: Oklahoma Sooners 

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
12:50
AM ET
Oklahoma did what many thought couldn’t be done -- it shocked two-time defending BCS champion Alabama and ended its 2013 season with a 45-31 victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sooners, a two-touchdown underdog entering the game, finished the year with an 11-2 record and left the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with one of the biggest wins in the program’s history.

Recruiting season has now hit Norman, and the Sooners hope to build off this win to find stars in the 2014 class. There are a couple of voids to fill from this year’s squad.

Best Big 12 recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
8:00
PM ET

Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

The best college football coaches will tell you that when it comes to recruiting, their business is an art. It’s a craft you must perfect if you want to have the best players commit and ultimately sign. Recruiting isn’t for everybody, but those who are good at it -- particularly for building the 2014 class -- should be recognized, as the business is extremely competitive.

Here are 10 of the top recruiters from the Big 12.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

OU-Texas: 2014 recruiting tale of the tape 

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
12:06
PM ET
When the Red River Rivalry is played, records are thrown out the window. When the game’s over, some love looking into the future to play “what if” with the next batch of talented college players.

While both teams have some room to land uncommitted recruits, both are pretty happy with where they are currently. Texas has 24 commits, and Oklahoma has 14, and when comparing ESPN 300 athletes, Texas only has a 7-5 lead.

Which team has the Red River Rivalry recruiting edge this year? Here’s a breakdown of eight positions and which team holds the edge for now.

Quarterback

Perhaps the most competitive comparison between the schools is at quarterback. ESPN 300s Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) and Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer) are the nation’s No. 4 and No. 5 dual-threat quarterbacks. Hansen is the Sooners’ top-ranked commit and has proven himself a first-class leader of the class. Heard already has one state championship ring, and he’s hoping for a repeat performance in December before arriving at the Forty Acres.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Dallis Todd
Erik McKinney/ESPNOklahoma will get 6-foot-5 playmaker Daliis Todd in its 2014 class.
Running back

There are high expectations for both ESPN 300 Samaje Perine (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) and Donald "Duke" Catalon (Houston/Eisenhower). Perine is a physical specimen with the combination of power and finesse at 6-foot and 213 pounds. Catalon, at 5-10 and 193 pounds, has the agility and overall balance to make him a potential every-down back. Texas also has three-star Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas/Newton), a player who plays with a chip on his shoulder, looking to show that he should be mentioned with the elite talent.

Advantage: Texas

Wide receiver

Neither Texas nor Oklahoma will be complaining about their receiver crop. The Longhorns have an ESPN 300 player in Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City), a rising star in Emanuel Porter (Dallas/Lincoln) and a player in Garrett Gray (Marble Falls, Texas/Marble Falls) who caught 13 passes for 293 yards and five touchdowns in a game last year. Oklahoma has size and athleticism in 6-5, 210-pound ESPN 300 receiver Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) and a 6-7, 180-pound end zone threat in Jeffery Mead (Tulsa, Okla/Union)

Advantage: Texas

Tight end

Oklahoma has done well with recruiting tight ends and was able to land ESPN 300 players Carson Meier (Tulsa, Okla./Union) and Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain). Meier is the No. 5 Y-tight end in the country, while Andrews is the No. 8 H-tight end. Texas also has a good one in junior college pledge John Thomas (Bossier City, La./Trinity Valley Community College). At 6-6 and 255 pounds, Thomas can be used as both a reliable blocker and receiver.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Offensive line

It’s hard to believe that between the two schools, only three offensive linemen are committed.

Sooners commit Alex Dalton (Troy, Ohio/Troy) is considered one of the nation’s top centers, and guard Jonathan Alvarez (Mesquite, Texas/Horn), with his work ethic alone, will surprise a lot of people in a couple of years. Texas, like Oklahoma, has a four-star center committed in Terrell Cuney (Jasper, Texas/Jasper). Cuney is a player who might see immediate playing time as a freshman.

Advantage: Texas

Defensive line


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The Opening: Oklahoma storylines 

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
8:00
AM ET
The Opening will get under way next week with several of the nation’s top recruits competing in Beaverton, Ore., to show who could be the top player in America for the Class of 2014. Several Oklahoma targets will be in Oregon showing off their talents, so here’s a look at a few Sooners storylines for The Opening.

Could the headliner of OU’s receiver class be on display?


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

NORMAN, Okla. -- On the last Monday of every month, SoonerNation is going to examine Oklahoma's offensive recruiting situation by taking a look at the Sooners' commits and targets.

Here is an idea of where OU stands for the Class of 2014 heading into July. View the Sooners' full commitment list.

The number in parentheses after every position indicates the number of recruits we project OU to sign at the position.

Quarterback (1)


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

There was no reason to wait any longer. His household is filled with Oklahoma fans, his teammate’s name already sits upon the Sooners' commitment list and the Oklahoma offense is a good fit for any 6-foot-5 receiver with terrific athleticism.

Tulsa (Okla.) Union receiver Jeffery Mead committed to Oklahoma on Saturday, picking the Sooners over offers from LSU, Clemson, Texas A&M, California and others. Mead joins teammate Carson Meier on OU’s commitment list as he becomes the school’s 10th commitment for the Class of 2014.

“All the pieces of the puzzle were there,” Mead said. “So I completed the puzzle by committing.”

Mead’s family has always been OU fans and the opportunity to play for the Sooners proved too intriguing for the tall receiver to ignore any longer. Mead is close friends with Meier and plans to be roommates with the Sooners’ tight end commitment in Norman. It turns out that the Sooners went a long way to securing Mead’s commitment on May 22, the day Meier pledged to OU. Asked when he knew OU was the place for him, Mead’s response was telling.

“My friend committed and having someone there that you know you can trust played a big part in it,” Mead said. “I already liked everything else about it. Great fans, great players.”

Mead joins Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) as receivers on OU’s commitment list. The opportunity to play for Sooners receivers coach Jay Norvell, who’s seen three of his receivers selected in the past two NFL drafts, was another key factor.

“You get vibes about people when you talk to them,” Mead said of Norvell. “You know who you’d like to play under. You have to trust your reasons and I feel like I can trust him.”

Tales From The Road: Oklahoma 

May, 29, 2013
5/29/13
9:00
AM ET
Every Wednesday the SoonerNation staff will take a quick hit look at some of the top recruits and storylines facing Oklahoma recruiting for the week.

Oklahoma

This week’s targets: The OU coaches will stay home for the most part with the three-day camp starting this weekend. This could be the weekend for first-year defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery. Defensive tackle offers D.J. Williams (Lufkin, Texas/Lufkin) and ESPN 150 prospect Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington) have confirmed they intend to be at OU’s camp. A commitment from McDowell seems unlikely, but OU has been ahead of the curve with Williams and could receive some good news on that front.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Every Friday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • A recent defensive offer will be at the Sooners' summer camp.
  • A Houston wideout has Oklahoma on top of his list.
  • One Arizona ESPN 150 cornerback is planning to take an official visit to OU.
  • ESPN 150 athlete and his coach will be in Norman for OU's camp.
  • More on the Sooners' sleeper commit, cornerback Tito Windham.
  • Was OU's offensive line commit always destined to be a Sooner?
  • An in-state defensive tackle could be offered soon.
  • Why OU hasn't made up ground with four-star defensive end Deondre Clark.

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The commits keep coming for Oklahoma. The Sooners entered last week with four verbal pledges. OU has picked up its fourth in 12 days.

And it’s back to Oklahoma for this one, as Tulsa (Okla.) Union tight end Carson Meier confirmed he committed to the Sooners on Wednesday afternoon. He is the second in-state commit, joining ESPN 150 quarterback Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe).

[+] EnlargeCarson Meier
Bob Przybylo/ESPNTulsa Union tight end Carson Meier is Oklahoma's second in-state commit of the Class of 2014.
Things can happen fast in the recruiting world, as at this time last week Meier wasn’t sure how seriously the Sooners were really pursuing him.

Meier attended OU’s first junior day in February and received letters from the school, but nothing that shouted out he was being pursued.

That changed last Monday when OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell stopped by to watch Tulsa Union wide receiver Jeffery Mead, who already has an offer from the Sooners.

Norvell took some video with his phone of Meier working out. Three days later Meier was told by Tulsa Union coach Kirk Fridrich to give OU tight ends coach Jay Boulware a call.

“It’s awesome,” Meier said earlier this week. “It’s a big-time offer. It was really surprising because I didn’t know it was coming.”

Meier, who is 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, also has offers from Wisconsin, Oregon State and Duke, among several others.

It has been known for a while Meier would be playing a sport in college, but most thought it would be basketball.

He has had some interest with basketball, but he realized recently that his focus had to be on football.

“I really like them both,” Meier said. “I’m starting to love football more and more. You get to hit people. You don’t get to do that in basketball, at least legally.”

The Meier commitment swings the momentum to OU in the Meier household. His father went to Tulsa. His mother went to Oklahoma State. But his sister was a Sooner, and now so is Meier.

Meier is the eighth commitment for OU’s 2014 class and the first tight end since the Class of 2012. OU pursued several tight ends for 2013 but could not nab any of them.

Meier was being recruited at defensive end by SMU, but he said he is definitely a tight end in the eyes of the OU coaching staff.

Video: WR Jeffery Mead on top schools

May, 22, 2013
5/22/13
2:00
PM ET

Receiver Jeffery Mead (Tulsa, Okla./Union) talks about his recruitment and juggling playing three sports.
TULSA, Okla. - Tulsa (Okla.) Union wide receiver Jeffery Mead simply doesn’t know how to slow down and doesn’t want to. Mead is a three-sport star for the Redskins at receiver, small forward in basketball and shortstop/pitcher in baseball.

The scary part is Mead was actually doing five sports at one time with soccer and track added into the mix. He eventually cut those out, but the other three sports are all in play, as Mead gets ready to conclude his junior year of high school.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Oklahoma coaches have gone just about everywhere during the spring evaluation period. From the east coast to the west coast, the OU coaches have hit the recruiting trail hard.

The majority of the last two weeks have been spent in Texas, but now it’s time to hit the home base. Oklahoma high school spring football starts across the state for most schools on Monday. OU coaches will be out in full force, and so is the SoonerNation staff.

A list of places we’ll be and who we’re going to see that's generating OU and national recruiting interest:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Drive Through: Playoff Field After Week 4
Heather Dinich looks at who she thinks should be in the playoffs after four weeks of the season.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

BIG 12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/25
Saturday, 9/27