NORMAN — As the question was put to Bob Stoops at his weekly press conference Monday, it was explained that the comparison might be a reach.
Because one had already spent a year in the NFL before the other committed to play his college football at Oklahoma, and one might be the college game’s greatest receiver and clearly its most prolific, while the other has only just received extended playing time for the first time.
Yet, despite being from different high schools, they nonetheless may be forever intertwined, each representing one half of the Crosstown Clash.
One, Ryan Broyles, from Norman High, can’t seem to catch a break on the injury front since becoming a Detroit Lion. But just as he did at OU, catching passes thrown by Sam Bradford and Landry Jones, he made his gifts clear upon becoming a pro, winning a starting spot as a rookie and then coming back to win it again on the back end of his second ACL tear in two years before a torn Achilles’ tendon sidelined him this season.
The other, Jordan Evans, from Norman North, made clear his capabilities last time out, against Texas Tech, filling in for Frank Shannon and hardly missing a beat, making eight tackles against the Red Raiders, leaving his coach gushing and unafraid to take on a comparison despite it being a reach.
Do Broyles and Evans, two hometown kids, both late to the recruiting party — at least to the Sooners’ recruiting party — share a similar gift? Do they feel the game in way others don’t and in a way that can’t be coached?
“It’s fair to say,” Stoops said. “One on the offensive side and one on the defensive side, they’re just ballplayers. They play well wherever they’re at and they continually make plays wherever they’re at.”
Dominique Alexander shouldn’t get short shrift here. Atop the depth chart at outside linebacker, the true freshman from Tulsa Washington broke into the lineup before Evans and ranks third among Sooner tacklers this season behind Shannon and Quentin Hayes. Still, Nelson had to go in cold against the Red Raiders and was more than up to the task.
What impressed Stoops?
“Everything,” he said.
“He’s a natural athlete … What’s pleasing is when we first put him in there, how natural it was for him, to find the ball, to be where he needs to be. A safety and a linebacker, if you have to tell him too many steps to take, you’re wasting your time.”
Though Broyles sat out his true freshman season following his lone brush with knuckleheadedness, he was wowing his coaches even before it became clear he would sit. Former Sooner offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said he had a “knack.”
Broyles didn’t leave for the NFL until he’d caught more passes than any other FBS collegian in the history of the game.
Evans, at a different position, appears to have a similar knack.
“Jordan, to lead the team in tackles and play like he did really says a lot for him,” Stoops said, “and, moving forward, how good he’s going to be.”
It’s true, you can’t help but wonder if Evans’ knack can possibly have him ready to face the likes of Baylor. Just as true, should Shannon’s availability remain limited, it better.
“(Linebackers are) a huge part of this game, being able to, hopefully, play their run game and control it and limit,” Stoops said.
It’s so much to ask a true freshman who might be making his first start. Of course, it has to be nice knowing the guy you’re asking is, you know, a ballplayer.
To really stand alongside Broyles, Evans will have to become one of the best in the game, get himself on awards lists and maybe win a few.
Who’s to say he won’t?
“He just,” Stoops said, “gets it.”
Follow me @clayhorning