During the next two months leading up to the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Sooners Illustrated will breakdown the Oklahoma Sooners’ roster, starting with Dominique Alexander (No. 1 on the roster) and working all the way down to Dwayne Orso (No. 99) and the incoming freshmen.
We’ll look at last year’s performance, the best-case scenario for this season – without projecting injuries – and what each player means to the short-term or long-term success of the Sooners.
No. 5 - WR Durron Neal (5-foot-11, 1955 pounds)
40 receptions, 513 yards, 3 touchdowns
What happened last year: As a junior, Neal was supposed to – and expected to – make a big splash. The one-time, four-star prospect started all 13 games last season but caught just 40 passes and three touchdowns. Forced into the No. 1 receiver role when Sterling Shepard was slowed by injury, Neal wasn’t able to replace the production. As the No. 2 receiver, Neal had 31 catches for 400 yards. In five games as the primary No. 1 guy, Neal had just 11 catches for 113 yards – although most of that was without Oklahoma’s starting quarterback.
Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 6. Neal needs to play a role and a bigger one than he had last year. Consistency is the most important thing for the elder statesman of the receiving corps. Neal doesn’t need to be a standout every play, but he needs to be a reliable third option. With his mix of experience and talent, Neal would be the best option as the No. 3 receiver in Oklahoma’s attack. If it’s someone else that steps into that third role, it doesn’t kill the Sooners. It would just be preferential for it to be Neal.
Best-case scenario for this season: Another season like the one he had last year – 45 catches, 600 yards and five touchdowns – would be perfect. The ball will be spread around more than it was last year, and there will be more options outside of Neal. Best case? He stands out as Oklahoma’s No. 2 option and even battles Dede Westbrook for catches within the rotation. Neal’s final season is good enough that he is invited to an NFL camp after it’s finished.