Sooners Feature Skilled WRs/RBs

With a skilled receiving corps fielding passes from Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, and some very experienced running backs carrying the ball, the Cougar defense will have their hands full on Saturday. We take a closer look at the Sooner wide receivers and running backs from the perspective of Cougar safety Scott Johnson.

Senior safety Scott Johnson knows the Cougar defense like the IRS knows auditing, but keeping one of most prolific passing offenses in the country in check won't come easy. However, here is how the field will match up when the Cougar defense faces the Sooner offense.

Senior Adron Tennell (6 feet 4 inches, 199 pounds) will receive the first start of his career. He did receive playing time in 12 games back in 2006 prior to suffering an ACL injury against Texas Tech in 2007. Last year he had a career-high three catches in the Sooners' against Chattanooga. Tennell's career stats total 16 catches for 208 yards, averaging 13 yards per catch.

"Obviously, they'll have their 6'4" guy out there catching the ball," said Johnson. "I'm not too sure about the starting guys on the outside just because their main guys have left. It's hard to get a lot of film on them to make an assessment, but we have seen some film on their outside guys. They obviously didn't produce as much as their three main guys, but you just expect more of the same and that's how you prepare. Their three receiving studs from last year left but you expect three more to replace them."

On the opposite side of Tennell is 6-foot-1-inch, 187-pound junior wide receiver Brandon Caleb. Over the past three years at Oklahoma, Caleb's career has been relegated mostly to special teams.

Caleb suffered a season-ending injury in Oklahoma's 2007 season opener. He came back in 2008 and had two catches against both Chattanooga and Baylor. His career-long reception of 20 yards came against the Bears. Caleb's career total is four receptions for 52 yards, averaging 13.0 yards per catch.

In terms of experience and production, the receiving corps of Oklahoma drops significantly from last year. The Sooners lost Juaquin Iglesias, who recorded 74 catches for 1,150 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and Manuel Johnson, who recorded 42 catches for 714 yards and nine touchdowns last year. They also lost 6-foot-5-inch, 203-pound Quentin Chaney, who racked up 29 receptions for 504 yards and two touchdowns in 2008.

"Their three main guys from last year are all gone – the receivers that produced the most in terms of numbers and touchdowns, but they always have guys coming in behind them," said Johnson.

Sophomore Ryan Broyles (5 feet 11 inches, 178 pounds) recorded 46 receptions (third most on the team) for 687 yards and six touchdowns last year as a freshman. He set a Sooner freshman record for yards tied the record for most catches. Yet, Coach Bob Stoops did not name him as a starter for the BYU game. Interestingly enough, Broyles returns to the field but so far has been assigned kick return duties along side defensive back Dominique Franks.

One reason could be the fact the Sooner staff has moved running back Mossis Madu to the slot position. Last year Madu rushed the ball 115 times for 475 yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.

"They have some quick scat guys coming in," said Johnson. "They moved [Madu] to receiver. They're great athletes and are guys that you can get the ball to in the open field and they can make plays. I think they moved [Madu] to the slot receiver position. He used to be a running back but they have unbelievable running backs already, so I think they moved him to the slot. He played a ton last year and I think he was the third guy in.

"He had great numbers even with the three-man rotation, so I think they moved him to slot so they can get the ball into his hands more. They still have the power there at running back, but by moving him to receiver they have that running back source lined up at receiver. You can run quick passes to him, you can run reverses to him and screens and he can do the rest."

In making a comparison, Johnson said he feels the Sooner offense resembles much of what he faces during practice at BYU.

"Their offense is actually different than any team we've faced," said Johnson. "I would say it's more like our offense, where they use their tight ends to run routes and they do like to pound it, pound it, pound it and then go play action. I feel like they do want a certain number of catches [for] the tight end to get and they're very productive that way.

"In watching film on them, I feel that they want to establish the run first. Just from what I've seen, they want to run it and they want to pound it. If that isn't productive enough, then they'll go play action off of that. That's when they'll start dropping back and opening up downfield."

However, unlike BYU, the Sooners don't use a fullback much.

"They like to go one-back or an ace formation," said Johnson. "They're very balanced out of that. They can run their inside zones, their stretches and the play action off of that. The options for them are endless because they don't have to change personnel, but they can run all sorts of different formations on you. They can have just as productive guys line up in the backfield, at receiver and tight end and can block down on you. They're very productive that way.

"With their power run, they like to just line up and run right at you. You know what's coming but they challenge you to try and stop them. Their backs can run downhill and they can also cut back in skinny little lanes and run on you."

At running back the Sooners have 6-foot-1-inch, 214-pound DeMarco Murray and 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound Chris Brown. Murray was an All-Big 12 First-Team selection last year after racking up 1,002 yards and 13 touchdowns on 179 carries.

"The guys they have now were all in a three-man rotation last year and all of them were awesome," said Johnson. "[Murray] was their main guy and he's a cut-back-type player, and he's a little bit bigger as a running back."

Due to a hamstring injury suffered during fall camp, Murray has been named the backup to Brown. Brown is a senior who racked up 1,220 yards and 20 touchdowns on 216 carries last season.

Johnson said that while Brown isn't as big as Murray, he feels he is just as capable.


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