Oklahoma Sooners: KJ Young

During the summer months, we will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Every day, we'll analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series will follow the roster numerically through our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 1 K.J. Young, receiver, 6-foot, 181 pounds, redshirt freshman

Impact thus far: Young redshirted during his first year in the program. He developed a reputation for having some of the best hands on the roster.

Impact in 2014: Young needs to seize the opportunity to play as a redshirt freshman or risk allowing other young receivers on the roster to secure bigger roles in the team's plans. Jalen Saunders is NFL-bound, and the redshirt freshman has the ability to help fill that playmaking void, both as a slot receiver and returner. Young should be able to carve himself a role in the receiver rotation this fall.

Long-term upside: Young could be a staple of OU’s receiving corps for at least three seasons. If he continues to mature, he has tremendous upside and could become an All-Big 12-type of receiver.

Evaluation grade for Young: Incomplete. It’s too early to grade Young, though he appears to have the physical tools to be an impact player.

Development grade for Young: A. Even though he probably could have seen spot duty for OU as a freshman, redshirting him was the right move with Saunders and Sterling Shepard standing between him and any true impact as a slot receiver. Now it’s possible for OU to get four productive seasons from the California native.

Quotable: “He’s away from home but he’s gotten a chance the last few days in practice to make some plays and he’s really stepping up. We’re really excited about him next year.” -- OU receivers coach Jay Norvell on Young during Sugar Bowl practices.
It was a quiet and productive spring at Oklahoma. The Sooners emerged relatively free of injuries and were able to tinker with their systems on both sides of the ball. This week we'll review OU's spring.

On Monday, we began with five questions that were answered during the Sooners' 15 practices. On Tuesday, we reviewed five questions that remain unanswered. On Wednesday, we took a look at five surprising Sooners. Today, we highlight the five disappointing developments of the spring.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Darron CummingsAn injury limited what OU QB-turned-TE Blake Bell could do at his new position this spring.
Blake Bell's injury: Sooner nation was robbed of the chance to see Bell in his new tight end position after a MCL sprain forced him to miss the end of spring. It also robbed Bell of critical reps he could have used to improve at his new position. Luckily he should return in the summer, allowing him to get even more time at the position before preseason camp begins because once the Sooners start preparing for the season, all bets are off and it will be time for Bell to battle for a role in the offense.

Stanvon Taylor's development: The sophomore cornerback is a better player than he’s showing. Taylor earned the praise of Bob Stoops and Mike Stoops on signing day, as the two brothers compared him to Aaron Colvin. He stepped on campus with a hungry desire to make an impact and started against Tulsa early in his freshman season but he hasn’t made the jump you would expect from a player of his talent as a sophomore. Dakota Austin passed him on the depth chart, and Taylor currently doesn’t look like a guy who can slide into Colvin’s spot without a drop off. Taylor isn’t a bust nor is a guy who won’t contribute this fall -- he just needs to take his game to another level if he’s going fulfill the upside that made him the No. 199 player in the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2013.

No dominant No. 2 receiver: Ideally, the Sooners would have seen one receiver emerge from the competition to show he wants to be a starter and centerpiece in OU’s passing game. Jordan Smallwood is the closest to filling that description, but he hasn’t run away from the competition with K.J. Young, Dannon Cavil and Derrick Woods among the receivers nipping at his heels. Sterling Shepard will be OU’s No. 1 target and will make plenty of plays as a junior, but someone else needs to step up as the No. 2 guy and force defenses to account for them if OU’s offense is going to really take off in 2014.

Offensive line injuries: The Sooners never really could get their entire offensive line together this spring with injuries to guard Nila Kasitati, tackle Tyrus Thompson, guard Adam Shead and others during spring practices. Center Ty Darlington's smooth transition into the starting center spot got overlooked in the spring, but the uncertainty along the rest of the offensive line could hurt the Sooners in the fall or could pay off since it seasoned the overall depth of OU’s offensive front. It was a disappointing spring because a roster full of healthy bodies would have spurred competition and forced returning starters to get better, much like it did on with the Sooners’ defensive line.

Offensive production in the spring game: Baker Mayfield was the lone quarterback to pass for more than 60 yards, Daniel Brooks was the lone running back to rush for more than 30 yards and no OU receiver recorded more than 62 receiving yards. To be fair, OU didn’t exactly break out its full arsenal on offense, but more individual playmaking would have made the Sooners’ coaching staff head into the summer with more confidence. The Sooners' offense didn’t look like a unit that was overflowing with players who will make game-changing plays this fall. OU has talented skill players; they just need those guys to continue to develop and, once the games really matter, to become consistent, productive playmakers.
It was a quiet and productive spring at Oklahoma. The Sooners emerged relatively free of injuries and were able to tinker with their systems on both sides of the ball. This week we'll review OU's spring. On Monday, we began with five questions that were answered during the Sooners' 15 practices. On Tuesday, we reviewed five questions that remain unanswered. Today, we look at five players who surprised this spring.

Running back Alex Ross: The sophomore made it clear he plans to be a part of OU’s offense this fall. He had a solid spring and was consistently mentioned as a playmaker after Sooners’ scrimmages. It was an important spring for Ross, who was passed on the depth chart by Keith Ford last season and will watch highly touted signees Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon arrive this summer. Ross needed to seize the opportunity to remind people he was a highly touted signee as well and that’s exactly what he did.

“He’s playing explosively,” quarterback Trevor Knight said. “He’s just having fun playing. He gets the ball in his hands and he’s down the field real quick. It’s good to watch.”

[+] EnlargeHatari Byrd
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsSophomore safety Hatari Byrd looks poised to make an impact in the secondary this season.
Safety Hatari Byrd: The sophomore moved seamlessly into the Sooners’ secondary and looks ready to be a key contributor, even if he doesn’t end up starting. He brings a hungry attitude and a will to succeed to OU’s secondary. Byrd saw limited time on defense as a true freshman but he sure looked at home alongside Quentin Hayes at the safety spot and joins Ahmad Thomas to give OU a pair of quality young safeties to compete for playing time this fall. Byrd’s smooth transition into the defensive system was a pleasant surprise for Sooners’ fans.

“He’s stepping up, coming down and making plays,” linebacker Eric Striker said.

Receiver K.J. Young: Fellow redshirt freshman Jordan Smallwood has gotten a lot of the accolades but Young looks poised to be a contributor in OU’s offense in the fall. He’s a smooth operator in the slot and can make plays when he gets the ball in his hands. Young didn’t separate himself in the spring game but he has all the tools to emerge as a quality receiving option for Knight in 2014. He’s gets overlooked at times but has the type of playmaking skills that can separate him from the competition.

Linebacker Jordan Evans: The sophomore is poised to provide depth and add athleticism to the Sooners linebacker corps. The Norman (Okla.) native played several positions in high school and his versatility shines through at linebacker. He’s very comfortable in space yet is willing to play physical if needed. If Evans continues to perform like he did this spring, the Sooners could end up having to find a place for him in their defensive system.

“He has played great,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Jordan has really improved and is much more sound and disciplined in schemes and where he needs to be. He has got great range and great athleticism.”

Cornerback Dakota Austin: The sophomore didn’t enter the spring as the favorite to replace Aaron Colvin but the job could be his to lose after a strong spring showing. He’s undersized but competitive and solid in coverage, which helped him surpass Stanvon Taylor and Cortez Johnson, a pair of returning cornerbacks who started games in 2013. Austin hasn’t locked down the starting spot but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him team with Zack Sanchez as OU’s starting cornerbacks for the season opener.

Roundtable: Grading Oklahoma's class 

February, 7, 2013
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Every Thursday, the SoonerNation staff will answer a roundtable question about OU football. Leave a comment or talk about it in our "There's Only One" forum.

How would you grade Oklahoma's 2013 recruiting class based on the Sooners filling their needs?

K.J. Young surprised by Sooners offer 

December, 28, 2012
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For a while it has looked like Oklahoma has had its eyes set on one wide receiver to close out its 2013 class. The Sooners were aiming high with No. 1-ranked receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee).

[+] EnlargeK.J. Young
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comReceiver K.J. Young also has offers from UTEP, UNLV and Colorado State.
OU hosted him two weeks ago, and it looked like the Sooners were in good position. They still could be, but OU is ready to move on if it has to at this point.

That became evident with a surprising offer to receiver K.J. Young (Perris, Calif./Citrus Hill) on Thursday afternoon. Even more surprising was Young said Thursday was his first interaction with the OU staff.

And he didn’t talk with OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell. Instead Young spoke with linebackers coach Tim Kish and Young said it was head coach Bob Stoops who officially made the offer to him.

“It was amazing,” Young said. “OU never crossed my mind. I felt like I must have done something right to have Bob Stoops want to call me.”

Maybe it was his senior-year statistics. Young had 91 receptions for 1,593 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns this season. He stepped it up when it mattered most, catching 37 balls for 760 yards and 10 touchdowns in four playoff games.

Young said the OU coaches got in touch with his coach, Eric Zomalt, on Thursday. Young said he spoke to Stoops and Kish for 20 minutes.

“They were just introducing themselves and talking about when they wanted the official visit to be,” Young said. “We decided Jan. 11 would work best.

“I was thinking about committing on the spot. I mean, it’s OU. But I want to see what the campus is like. I have to be comfortable. The football program might be nice, but I have to feel at home.”

Young, who is 6-foot and 183 pounds, has offers from UNLV, UTEP and Colorado State and has made official visits to Boise State and UNLV.

He had some good offers, but he was convinced bigger programs were going to come his way once his film got out there.


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