It’s a harsh reality in college football. When you don’t perform up to the high expectations, fans start looking around to see who can and what’s next.
That was the case for Oklahoma after last week’s loss to Houston, especially when viewing what the Sooners have at wide receiver.
It was sort of a perfect storm where OU’s receivers didn’t put up big numbers, while its 2017 commits combined for 36 catches for 839 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The cry from Twitter and the message boards were can’t these guys suit up for OU this year and make a difference?
What we’re really seeing from OU’s 2016 receiver group on the field is what has happened because of misses and whiffs and what could have beens on the recruiting trail.
The 2012 class would be redshirt seniors, but OU did OK in this department with the success of Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal. Things didn’t pan out so well with Derrick Woods and of course the epic “what could have been” story about Trey Metoyer.
So you move to 2013 where the guys here would be seniors or redshirt juniors. And this is where the misses start to hurt and start to become more noticeable.
Dannon Cavil was considered a major last-minute addition to the class, but he was gone midway through the 2014 season. K.J. Young was thought to be an explosive talent, but he left before the 2015 season and is now at Washington. Austin Bennett didn’t last two seasons in Norman.
Jordan Smallwood has been battling injuries and consistency and is hoping this is the year he makes his mark. He’s the lone one to still be on the roster.
The 2014 class saw a change in thinking as OU went from slot guys to size. It was necessary, but it hasn’t produced anything just yet. Dallis Todd left before this season started. Michiah Quick has moved to cornerback. The jury is still out on Jeffery Mead, and OU has a legitimate major hit in tight end Mark Andrews.
And OU has already had a receiver for 2015 (John Humphrey) and 2016 (Adrian Hardy) leave the program.
That’s why fans are so pumped about 2017’s BallOutBoyz with Jalen Reagor, Charleston Rambo, CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra. All ranked in the Scout 300 and all playing like it.
That’s the future, though. What can be done about the present? Because Shepard is not walking through that door.
“A guy like Sterling always stepped up in big moments, so yeah, it hurts to lose him, but we have guys that should be able to step up,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “I just gotta get the ball out of my hands. At certain points, there were people open. I just gotta get the ball out of my hands instead of scrambling around a little too much or just not taking a chance on them.”
That seems to be the word of the moment – trust. It’s going to be up to Mayfield to trust those guys, but it’s going to be up to that group to make Mayfield trust them.
The Class of 2015 brought two late names into the fold in A.D. Miller and Dahu Green. While Green didn’t make the trip to Houston because of an injury, Miller earned his first reception of the season. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start. It’s baby steps toward getting that trust.
The one name out there being talked about is true freshman Mykel Jones. Slowed down during camp with an injury, he’s back. And it might be time to see him on the field instead of just warming up before the game.
“He’s just got to learn it,” offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “He’s progressing. He’s a few weeks behind schedule from what he missed in camp. It’s probably sooner rather than later.”
There were plays to be made Saturday against the Cougars that weren’t. Whether you argue it’s because Mayfield didn’t give his receivers a chance to make it happen or that the group never got the separation to allow Mayfield to create magic is irrelevant now.
The season didn’t end Saturday, but the adjustments have to be made by everybody across the board.
“Yeah, I think we’re a confident group,” Andrews said. “They did a good job of relaying that message to us. We have a lot of athletes on this team and playmakers. We’re not going to shut down just because of this one loss. We know what we can do and our potential. We’re not going to let this define our season.”
We’ll all find out what some of those adjustments will be Saturday evening.