As recently as last week, the Sooners were projected to win the Big 12 championship, and were ranked in the top five of pretty much every single way too early preseason top 25 poll.
Now, the Sooners head into the hot summer months with two eligible wide receivers on the current roster, and only one of those has caught a pass in game action.
The indefinite suspensions of receivers Trey Franks, Jaz Reynolds, and Kameel Jackson, along with cornerback Quentin Hayes has devastated a Sooner offense that was already facing the task of permanently replacing all-time NCAA receptions leader, Ryan Broyles.
OU has several talented receivers joining the ranks in the fall. Durron Neal and Derrick Woods were both Army All-Americans, while Sterling Shepard was an Under Armour All-American. Also joining the Sooners will be junior college All-American Courtney Gardner. Gardner still has some academic requirements to fulfill before he can join the Sooners in August, but he could be a veteran presence the Sooners desperately need at this point.
As talented as these players are, there are no guarantees about how they will perform once they’re actually in a game. Although, Neal and Shepard tweeted Thursday about meeting the challenge head on, and showing everyone how well an 18-year old can play. They certainly don’t seem daunted by the task at hand, and that’s a very encouraging sign for OU fans.
Then there is junior Kenny Stills, who is the lone receiver on the Sooners’ roster that has actually played in a college football game and caught a pass. Last year, when Broyles went down, many expected Stills to step up and be the leader. Unfortunately, he did not, and the Sooners ended the season without throwing a single touchdown pass after the injury to Broyles.
Still admitted being overwhelmed by the pressure of being THE guy for the receiving corps, but that cannot happen again if OU hopes to have any semblance of a passing game.
This is also a prime opportunity for senior quarterback Landry Jones to prove his worth as a leader, something that many have called into question over his three years as the Sooners’ starting quarterback. Jones has the opportunity to spend time with his new, young receivers, developing trust in their ability to catch his passes. After all, a quarterback can only be so good by themselves.
OU does have one thing going for it here, and that’s the return of a dominant running game. The Sooners have a stable of backs, including Dominique Whaley, Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, and junior college transfer Damien Williams, who figures to have an instant impact.
The Sooners’ offensive line manhandled the OU defensive line during the annual spring game, so it’s very possible the Sooners could lean on the running game in the first few weeks of the season while Jones gets accustomed to his new receivers. However, those receivers need to grow up quickly because the Sooners host Kansas State on Sept. 22, and the Wildcats will be an excellent team in 2012.
Another good thing is that the only notable opponent for OU before October is that game against KSU, so there is plenty of time, and there is no need to panic.
However, this is certainly cause for concern.