Oklahoma football: No news will soon be big news for young OU wide receivers

Oklahoma's Gavin Freeman (82) scores a touchdown in front of UTEP's Dennis Barnes (13) during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UTEP Miners at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.gavin freeman
Oklahoma's Gavin Freeman (82) scores a touchdown in front of UTEP's Dennis Barnes (13) during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UTEP Miners at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.gavin freeman /

There are surprises every season in college football, and the one I see emerging from preseason training camp for the Oklahoma football team this season is how good and deep this relatively unknown wide-receiver group is.

During the offseason and leading up to the start of the 2023 college football season, there has been concern inside and outside of Sooner Nation about who is going to step up among a wide-receiver group in which no player has recorded 500 receiving yards in a season and only three returning wide receivers have delivered over 250 receiving yards in a single season.

Looking at the issue from another direction, 149 of OU’s 251 pass receptions last season came from a player no longer on the roster.

Junior Jalil Farooq and sixth-year Sooner Drake Stoops are expected to be primary targets for veteran quarterback Dillon Gabriel in 2023. The pair combined for 75 catches for 845 yards and eight touchdowns as the Sooners’ third and fourth leading receivers a year ago.

The group beyond Farooq and Stoops is largely unproven. It includes six freshmen, three sophomores and four upper-classmen. Within that group, only two have caught a pass in an Oklahoma uniform. You can see why there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the OU wide-receiver group heading into the important 2023 season for Sooner football.

Among the group of relatively unknown and unproven receivers Oklahoma is looking to to step out of the shadows and make plays this season are Gavin Freeman, LV Bunkley-Shelton, Jayden Gibson, Nic Anderson and newcomers Andrel Anthony, Brenen Thompson and Jaquaize Pettaway.

“We’ve got a bunch of young guys in that room and a bunch of guys who are incredibly capable but haven’t done it on the field,” said offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said during OU media day at the start of preseason training camp.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma brought in veteran assistant Emmett Jones to coach the wide receivers. Jones, who was at Texas Tech previously and at Kansas before that, hit the ground running in Norman gaining commitments from six wide receivers (five in the 2024 class and one already for 2025). Jones coached a wide receiver group at pass-heavy Texas Tech last season that finished 12th nationally in passing offense (302 yards per game) and 13th in passing yards (3,926).

It is Jones’ job to bring the best out of this young but untested group of Sooner wide receivers not named Farooq or Stoops and even raise the game of the latter two.

Jones wants to build what he calls a brotherhood in the Oklahoma wide-receiver room. “We are competing with each other for spots, but at the same time, we are doing it for each other,” the OU wide receivers coach said this week.

To that end, Jones asked different receivers to switch roles in training camp and be the teacher.

"“It’s a really good learning experience,” redshirt-freshman wide receiver Anderson told reporters at the start of fall training camp. “You’ve got to know it at a different level.”"

Gibson at 6-foot-5 and Anderson who measures 6-foot-4 give the Sooners important length that they’ve been missing for quite a while at the wide-receiver spot. In addition, Anderson, along with Texas Thompson and true freshman Pettaway, possesses blazing speed.

Anderson, who missed most all of last season rehabbing from an injury, is having an impressive fall camp, and Lebby is counting on him to make an important contribution this season. “He’s a baller,” said Drake Stoops. “He’s an explosive player. He gets up to top speed real fast. He’s got great hands, great route-running ability and he’s big, physical and strong.”

Former walk-on Freeman showed flashes of what he can do last season. The sophomore from nearby Oklahoma City is not big in stature, at 5-foot, 8 inches, but he has the ability to make big plays. He gained 41 yards on one of his first collegiate touches to set up a touchdown.

“I love everything that he’s about,” head coach Brent Venables said about Freeman at OU media day to open up fall training camp.

"“He’s a football player. Just makes plays. He’s gonna help this football team."

Another Sooner receiver who has a chance to carve out a significant role in the OU passing game this season is Michigan transfer Anthony, who also has drawn praise from the Sooner coaches and teammates in training camp. He caught just seven passes for 80 yards as a sophomore at Michigan last season but draws some comparison to former Sooners Dede Westbrook and Jalen Saunders, who thrived at OU in deep patterns.

Based on what we’ve seen so far,” said Venables this past week, “Andrel will be a major part of the offensive system.”

“This (season) is going to be special,” said Anthony. “I’m excited about everybody in the room, because since I’ve been here, I’ve seen the growth that everybody’s had — and it’s like wow. I know we’re going to be special.

dark. Next. All eyes are on the defense, but what about the OU offense?

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist for The Oklahoman may have summed the situation up best when she wrote in a recent column:

"“If (Emmett) Jones comes close to having as much success developing OU receivers as he’s had recruiting them, heads will be turning once again.”"