Oklahoma offense will look deep

Long ball becomes top priority as Sterling Shepard matures

Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard’s natural progression would see him easily stepping into the No.1 role in the Sooners’ offense this season.

He’ll do that, but it’s his understanding from last year as an outside receiver that could change the Sooners’ offense – for the deeper.

“That’s been our main focus – trying to get deep balls,” Shepard said. “That can add energy to the offense. When we hit go balls, it’s a lot easier on us. We’ve been working on that.”

Early last season, Oklahoma struggled to connect on deep passes. With Shepard serving as a deep target before he might have been truly comfortable on the end and Trevor Knight throwing to an unfamiliar group of receivers in his first few games as a starting quarterback, something was off.

Things have definitely changed.

Knight has been sharp on the deep ball through the first two practices of the season, and Shepard is ready. Not only that, but Oklahoma has unveiled an entire new crop of receivers – four of them are 6-foot-3 or taller. Although young, receivers like Mark Andrews, Dallis Todd and possibly Dorial Green-Beckham add a special dynamic that Shepard can’t emulate: Pure size.

“From the looks of it, those guys don’t play like they are freshmen,” said Shepard, who added that he has learned leadership from his predecessors and is trying to pass it down to the younger receivers. “They are big bodies. It’s great to have a big body. Any time you have a big body, you can push people around. They are doing a great job of using their strength.”

Shepard has been trying to emphasize the importance of a good release and early separation to the young receivers – adding that Michiah Quick has come a long way as well.

“He reminds me of me,” Shepard said.

That’s high praise coming from the two-time legacy that saw game action in his true freshman season.

“I feel like I had to wait my freshmen year,” Shepard said. “… Now, I feel like it’s my turn to step up. I’m ready to do that.”

Add in new tight end Blake Bell – the 6-foot-6 former quarterback – and the Sooners’ offense is as dynamic as ever. Big receivers, a multi-purpose veteran and a talented tight end, who everyone says is catching everything in sight, and Oklahoma’s offense is no longer a dink-and-dunk attack.

It could be a very different year in the passing game.

“It adds a different variety to our game,” Shepard said of Bell.

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