By John Shinn
Oklahoma has a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, but it doesn’t mean much without some receivers. Thankfully, Sam Bradford won’t have a problem finding acceptable targets this season.
But they aren’t the ones that have become household names over the last several seasons.
The wide receiver positions are the spots where the Sooners have the biggest holes to fill heading into the 2009 season. Juaquin Iglesais, Manny Johnson and Quentin Chaney combined to catch 21 touchdowns last season and nearly half of OU’s receiving yards.
Receivers coach Jay Norvell isn’t concerned with filling the holes.
“I think we’re more athletic than last year. I think we’re more explosive than last year,” he said. “Now, if that adds up to productiveness, I’m not sure. We’ve got to be really tough and disciplined to be productive. But, we’ve got athletes and in that respect we may have more of a deep threat than we had last year.”
The Sooners’ most productive returning receiver is sophomore Ryan Broyles. The Norman High product enjoyed a breakout season as a freshman, catching 46 passes with six going for touchdowns. Last season he was used as a slot receiver. This year he’ll have to take a bigger role and become a dependable, every-play threat.
“It’s always good to have that game experience, but just because I have a year it doesn’t exclude me from working hard,” Broyles said. “I feel like I have a little more on my plate this season being the veteran, experience wise, and having to teach a lot of the younger guys how we do things.”
Broyles could very well become Bradford’s go-to receiver this season. Options are plentiful, however.
Another NHS product, Mossis Madu has made the move to wide receiver and is expected to move into the slot role Broyles filled a year ago.
Neither of them, however, is the prototypical receiver the Sooners have used to fuel their passing game over the last several seasons.
The Sooners are looking to Adron Tennell to fill that spot. He’s waited long enough to do it. The senior has sat behind some of the best receivers in Sooner history waiting for his turn. He’s got it now.
If he doesn’t, OU has a lot of talent waiting in the wings. Brandon Caleb played a big special teams role last season and is position to play a bigger role in the offense. Sophomores Jameel Owens and Dejuan Miller are both big receivers who are itching to get on the field.
The biggest surprise of the preseason has been the emergence of junior college transfer Cameron Kenney. He’s already spent time working with the first team.
But does OU have a go-to receiver heading into the season?
It doesn’t have a proven one. Norvell said that’s not the goal.
“I think there are lot of phrases that get thrown around out there like ‘go-to guy’, ‘number-one guy’, that sort of stuff. Obviously we want to have three players that can make plays and can beat man coverage and go long,” he said. I think we have the ability to stretch the field with three or four guys. And the more you keep pouring athletic ability into the position the more opportunities you have to make big plays. We’re trying to pour all the athletes we can on the field so they can be in a position to stretch the defense and make plays.”