OU's wide receiver dilemma

Sterling Shepard is holding up his end of the bargain, but receiver is a huge issue for OU halfway through the regular season.

There was a point in last week’s game against Texas where Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight airmailed a pass over the head of wide receiver Durron Neal on third down.

All OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops could do was throw his hands up in the air. Knight, usually the most reserved player on the field, let out an expletive if you’re able to read lips. Or heck, you don’t even need to be good at that skill to understand what Knight was saying.

Frustration – with a capital F has been the story of OU’s passing game in the last six quarters. While Sterling Shepard continues to sizzle in each and every game, it has been a chore trying to get things rolling with the other guys.

Neal and redshirt freshman K.J. Young have made some plays and some big ones, but it certainly hasn’t felt like it in the last two weeks.

“I think there is some frustration involved when you’re not running up and down the field like you want to,” Knight said. “I think we did a good job of responding to that on the sidelines, just keeping the guys fired up. We may have been a little frustrated if we didn’t pick up a third down or something like, but overall we had positive energy on the sidelines.”

Positive energy is nice, but OU would like some execution, and it has become increasingly difficult to find that in the last two games.

It’s not on all Knight as everyone was quick to point out. Receivers have to do a better job of getting open. And when a strike is delivered, the catch has to be made.

“I’m not going to sit here and detail Trevor,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “There are some parts of our passing game that need to get better.

“We had another drop in a critical situation on third down. There’s a chance some of these other guys could be out there.”

How did it get here, though, for the Sooners? OU has tried to live off the moniker of WR University under coach Jay Norvell, but the Sooners are severely lacking in game-changers with the group on campus right now.

Some of it has been recruiting. OU has been “this close” with a lot of top names since the 2012 class. It’s no excuse as every school has to deal with it, but this corps would be a lot different if Nelson Agholor (USC), Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss) and/or K.D. Cannon (Baylor) decided to head to Norman.

Agholor has 42 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns. Treadwell has been good for 30 receptions for 415 yards and four scores. And Cannon, a true freshman, has lit up the scoreboard at Baylor with 30 grabs for 651 yards and six touchdowns.

All three had OU in their final three, and you could argue OU might have been No. 2 with at least one of them but all moot when not No. 1. OU would have never ever gotten all three but adding just one would be more than enough right now.

Some of it has been bad luck. Trey Metoyer was expected to be a can’t-miss five-star receiver from Texas. But after failing to qualify one year combined with off the field troubles the next, he’s a case of what could have been in Norman.

Norvell has had answers for that, going through the transfer route. Nobody can deny what Jalen Saunders, Justin Brown and LaColtan Bester meant to OU’s teams in the last couple of seasons.

Norvell went into those waters again but came up empty when the NCAA denied the appeal for immediate eligibility for Dorial Green-Beckham.

Green-Beckham, also from the Class of 2012, transferred to OU from Missouri and had the Sooners in his final five back during his first recruitment.

Shepard has been as good as advertised. His numbers aren’t too gaudy at 34 receptions for 714 yards and four touchdowns, but he accounted for 32 percent of all of OU’s receptions.

Outside of Shepard, Neal (23 for 306) and Young (13 for 144), the only other receiver to catch a ball is Jordan Smallwood with two receptions for 10 yards. And no receiver besides Shepard has a receiving touchdown.

So what’s the solution? Sooners Illustrated examines that in part II on Friday.

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