Oklahoma football has seen success at WR with graduate transfers

COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 29: Jeff Badet /

The number of college players who take advantage of the NCAA graduate transfer rule has increased almost seven fold over the last six seasons, the Oklahoma football program is one of those who have benefited from the rule.

Twice in the last five seasons, a pair of wide receivers who began their college careers elsewhere elected to play their final season of college ball at Oklahoma. And a third such wide receiver is on the Sooner roster this season.

Justin Brown, a 6-foot, 3-inch wide receiver, played three seasons at Penn State before transferring to Oklahoma for the 2012 season and his final season of college eligibility. Brown received his undergraduate degree from Penn State, which made him eligible to transfer to another school and play immediately without having to sit out a year.

In 2006, the NCAA put a rule into effect that said a college athlete who had graduated and had athletic eligibility remaining could transfer in order to pursue a graduate degree did not offer or to attend a school that provided a better academic opportunity. That is the way the rule was intended, but like many things in today’s life, things don’t always play out in the way they were intended.

A recent Sports Illustrated article on the graduate-transfer phenomenon in college sports cited a statistic provided by the NCAA that 55 percent of the graduate transfers who played college football in 2013 and 2014 failed to complete their graduate study.

According to the SI article, in just one season, the number of graduate transfers in college football grew from 17 in 2011 to 42 in 2012. By 2016 there were 117 such transfers, representing an increase of 588 percent in six seasons.

Brown was one of the 42 graduate transfers in 2012 to play their final college season with another school. He joined a Sooner team that also had an All-Big 12 receiver in Kenny Stills, a freshman sensation named Sterling Shepard as well as fellow transferee Jalen Saunders, who played two seasons at Fresno State before switching schools to come to Oklahoma.

In his one season with the Sooners, Brown caught almost as many passes as he did in three seasons for the Nittany Lions. His 73 receptions for the Sooners in 2012 were second best on the team to Stills’ 82, and five of the catches went for touchdowns.

Brown caught a career-high 15 passes for 146 yards in a 51-48 overtime win over Oklahoma State and had two other games in the 2012 season in which he exceeded 100 receiving yards. He also was used on punt returns that season, averaging 13.6 yards on 22 returns. He was a major contributor on an Oklahoma team that won its eight Big 12 championship that season.

Four years after Brown ended his college career playing one season with the Sooners, another Penn State wide receiver decided to follow suit and end his collegiate career wearing a Sooner uniform.

Geno Lewis delivered 55 receptions for 751 yards his sophomore season at Penn State. His production dropped off significantly his junior year, but he still ranks 16th on the Nittany Lions’ career receiving list with 90 catches. Lewis proved to be a valuable addition to the 2016 Sooner squad, providing quarterback Baker Mayfield with a third and fourth option in the passing game after Heisman finalist Dede Westbrook and All-Big 12 First-Team running back Joe Mixon, both of whom are now turning heads in the NFL.

Lewis was OU’s third leading receiver a year ago, with 32 catches for 388 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He had a six-reception game in the Sooners win at Iowa State and caught two passes for 40 yards in the Sugar Bowl victory over Auburn.

Lewis, Westbrook and Mixon have now departed Norman, but the Sooners have brought in yet another graduate transfer to add depth and, importantly, experience to a relatively young receiving corps for 2017.

Jeff Badet comes to Oklahoma from the University of Kentucky, where he played for three seasons under head coach Mark Stoops, the younger brother of Bob and Mike Stoops. A Florida native, the 6-foot, 178-pound wide receiver led Kentucky last season in receiving yards (670), receiving yards per game (51.5) and receiving yards per catch (21.6, which was sixth best nationally). He was also used as a kick returner at Kentucky. His 22.9-yard average returning kickoffs return ranked sixth in the SEC last season.

Badet is likely to see plenty of action this season in Oklahoma’s Air Raid offense, and it will come at a good time with no true stars among the Sooner receivers. He could be just the playmaker the Sooners are looking for after losing Westbrook and Shepard in the last two seasons.

Next: The ABCs of Oklahoma football heading into the 2017 season

And just for the record, Badet’s physical structure and skill-set are very similar to Westbrook’s.