Hite's OU 11: No. 3 Sterling Shepard

Receiver ready for a breakout season in his final year with the Sooners

During the next two weeks, Sooners Illustrated will rank Oklahoma’s players.

While Sooners Illustrated publisher Bob Przybylo will breakdown the best Sooners, we are talking about the most important players here – based on the opinion of Sooners Illustrated writer Justin Hite.

There will definitely be some crossover between the two lists, but this list in particular is based on who Oklahoma needs to be at the top of their game this season.

Let’s keep it rolling.

3. Sterling Shepard

Remember what happened when Shepard missed time last season? Well, there’s no more other game experience on the roster. There’s plenty of potential, hype and probably a definite change.

Nothing is certain, though – even if it is highly probable.

One of the best receivers in the history of Oklahoma is important. The No. 1 receiver on a pass-heavy offense is going to be key. A potential Biletnikoff Award Finalist will be vital.

As the Sooners’ No. 1 receiver, Shepard set a season-high in receiving yards and tied a season-high in receptions – all despite basically missing the final five games of the regular season.

Being lined up in the slot will make a huge difference for Shepard, who could easily rack up more than 1,000 yards and 100 receptions. East Carolina’s top receiver effortlessly eclipsed those numbers last season.

Behind Shepard, who hasn’t had a season with fewer than 45 catches, there still isn’t much experience. Of course Mark Andrews, Jeffery Mead and Dede Westbrook should provide some support. Michiah Quick and Durron Neal should be better.

There are a lot of ifs in those statements, and none of those receivers has ever caught more than 45 passes in a season.

The best-case scenario for Oklahoma is if Shepard is a star – and becomes a high-round draft pick. He has all the ability to do exactly that and now has an offense where he can truly shine.

A bold prediction?

Shepard finishes his career as the No. 2 all-time leader in receiving yards at Oklahoma, closing his career with a 1,500-yard season and 15 touchdowns – more than double any single-season scoring total of his career.

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