Bob Stoops has the Oklahoma Sooners poised for a run at a Big 12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff in 2014 but has questions to answer about his team before they kick off the season. Chief among them is the experience of the receiving corps. The team had some hope to add an experienced playmaker in Missouri Tigers transfer Dorial Green-Beckham, but will have to do without his services after his appeal to play immediately this season was denied by the NCAA. That puts the pressure on Oklahoma’s existing receivers, and junior Durron Neal in particular.
Neal returns as the second-leading returning receiver this season behind only Sterling Shepard. He caught 13 passes for 176 yards but should be in line for a much bigger role in 2014. The former high school All-American came to Norman with high expectations but has yet to really show that on the field for the Sooners yet. In two seasons, Neal has just 18 receptions to his name for 251 yards and has yet to find the endzone. That will have to change this fall or the Sooners will be seriously hampered in the passing attack this season.
Without Green-Beckham available, Oklahoma has little choice but to turn to Neal. While Shepard returns as the clear No. 1 pass catcher for the Sooners with 51 receptions for 603 yards and seven touchdowns last season, the Sooners are lacking a clear No. 2 in the passing game. Behind Neal, Derrick Woods is the next leading returning receiver after posting two catches for 29 yards last season. The Sooners will also get their first look at players like Jordan Smallwood, K.J. Young, and Michiah Quick when they make their debuts in 2014.
But when the team kicks off the season on August 30 against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, it will be Durron Neal in the starting lineup looking to deliver on his massive potential for the Sooners. If he can find his footing and play at the level many believe he is capable of, Oklahoma will be in the hunt for a national title in 2014.