Oklahoma football: WR Drake Stoops takes on new role

Drake Stoops enters the 2022 season in a different place than in past years for the Oklahoma football Sooners.

The slot receiver is now the elder statesman in a talented wide receiver room that has endured some tribulation in this past week.

Stoops, the son of legendary OU head coach and “program guy” Bob Stoops, was once an afterthought at the position, but he may be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle in Jeff Lebby’s offense as he takes on a new role in the locker room and on the field.

Stoops has been a member of the Sooners since the 2018 season. That means he’s seen a lot happen in his four previous years of college ball. He’s been around the block a few times in Norman, and he knows what it takes to win.

The Sooner offense has undergone a makeover since Lincoln Riley left town. Many key players moved on to the NFL or left via the transfer portal. Stoops, given his upbringing, was always going to stay put and help lead the offense as a veteran through a changing of the guard.

Oklahoma has had no problem recruiting elite receiving talent over the past few years, but the position is a bit thinner than in years prior. Don’t get it twisted, the team still has plenty of ability and talent at the spot, but the depth chart isn’t as littered with blue-chippers in the wake of departures like Trejan Bridges, Jadon Haselwood, Mario Williams, Mike Woods and so on.

So why highlight Stoops? He’s certainly not the most talented or best receiver on the team. That honor would go to Marvin Mims, who should have a nice season with a new coach calling the plays. He’s not the highest-rated recruit like Theo Wease, who’s got five stars next to his name. He’s not the biggest jump-ball threat like Jayden Gibson (or maybe Nic Anderson).

What he is, is the most experienced. He’s an old college football player entering Year 5 at the program. He’s that shifty slot receiver that every great team needs, who makes plays when the defense forgets about him to cover the big guns like Mims and Wease (remember Nick Basquine?). He’s a likely starter for a reason.

He also makes big receptions in big games, none bigger than this touchdown in 4OT against Texas in 2020. Or this touchdown in the Alamo Bowl with his dad watching on the sidelines. He’s had a penchant for doing the dirty work as well, doing all the little things that help great teams win.

That kind of attitude and mindset is why he’s a great fit and a great leader for the new culture Brent Venables is establishing at OU. That’s why, despite only having four touchdowns to his name, he’s a respected voice in the Sooner locker room. And that’s why he’s a name to keep an eye on that may have a bigger season than most Sooner fans expect in 2022.