OU Football 2015 Position Breakdown: Receivers


Production at the wide-receiver position in OU football has taken an unacceptable step backwards for two successive seasons, and in 2014, the Sooners ability to throw the ball effectively and with any consistency was virtually non-existent.

Part of the blame rests on the inconsistent play at quarterback, but the larger problem has to do with pedestrian performances from a group of talented receivers who were expected to perform at a much higher level than they did. Outside of Sterling Shepard, there were no sure-handed receivers who could be counted on last season to make plays when they were called upon.

And when Shepard went down with a hamstring injury in the opening moments of OU’s seventh game of the season at Iowa State, the Sooner passing game struggled for the remainder of the season.

Nov 8, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Michiah Quick (16) catches a pass while being defended by Baylor Bears safety Terrell Burt (13) during the first half at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Over its last four regular-season games in 2014, OU’s pass-receiving yardage – against Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State – totaled 148, 133, 39 and 120 net yards, respectively. And in its lethargic bowl performance against Clemson, Oklahoma gained just barely over 100 yards through the air.

The good news for fans of the Sooner Nation is that with Lincoln Riley taking over as the team’s new offensive coordinator, something must and will be done to elevate the aerial game.

A quick-strike, wide-open passing game that makes defenses cover the entire field is an integral, potent weapon in the offense that Riley is putting together at Oklahoma. And with one of the nation’s most dangerous rushing attacks, the opportunities will be there for the Sooners to hit opponents with multiple weapons and in multiple ways, something the guys in the crimson helmets have been able to find the right balance of in recent seasons.

OU had to replace three of its top four receivers going into the 2014 season, and the drop off in on-the field results from losing those contributions was dramatic. To illustrate that point, the Sooners’ leading receiver Shepard missed the last five games of the 2014 season and still had more than 460 receiving yards than the second best receiver on the OU roster, Duron Neal.

Shepard is clearly No. 1 among the OU receivers for 2015. The real question going into the fall will be who will make up the key supporting cast behind him. Neal returns for his senior season, but he is going to have to average more than 39.5 receiving yards per game if he expects to remain No. 2 on the depth chart.

Neal will receive major challenges for playing time from sophomores Michiah Quick, who saw quite a bit of action late in the 2014 season, Jeffery Mead and Jordan Smallwood. Mead caught four passes for 93 yards in the annual Red-White spring game. Smallwood saw limited action last season, but he will probably have to work his way into the receiver rotation after suffering a torn ACL in March. He is expected to miss the first couple of games in the 2015 season.

The Sooner receiving corps should receive an immediate boost from junior-college transfer Dede Westbrook, who looked very good in the spring and has explosive speed. A First Team JUCO All-American. while playing for Blinn (Texas) Junior College, Westbrook caught 76 passes for 1,487 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. 

“We have a lot of talent at the receiver position…That is a position we have to upgrade.” —Lincoln Riley, OU offensive coordinator

The OU coaches are also very high on the potential of redshirt freshman Mark Andrews and true freshman John Humphrey. Andrews had two catches for 56 yards in this year’s spring game, and Humphrey caught one ball for 56 yards.

Sixteen different receivers caught passes in the spring game in April, which signals that Riley’s offense will incorporate a number of receiving options, including running backs as receiving targets.

Riley likes the talent the Sooners have on the roster for this coming season at the wide-receiver position. Assistant coaches Cale Gundy and Dennis Simmons have done a great job with the group, Riley said at the conclusion of spring practice. “We have a lot of talent there, and that is a position through recruiting we have to (continue to) upgrade.”