Why a healthy Andrel Anthony is crucial to Oklahoma's passing game in 2024

Iowa State v Oklahoma
Iowa State v Oklahoma / Brian Bahr/GettyImages

Andrel Anthony broke out onto the college football scene in late October of the 2021 season as a member of the Michigan Wolverines. In Michigan's road game at Michigan State, Anthony finished with six receptions, 155 yards, and two touchdowns.

Anthony made his first career catch on a 10-yard slant play but showcased his speed and raced past the Spartans' secondary for a 93-yard touchdown reception that was the second-longest pass play in Michigan football history.

It was plays like that that had plenty of Michigan fans licking their chops, but Anthony would go on to record just six more receptions and one touchdown in the remaining six games that season. He followed that output up with a disappointing sophomore campaign in which he caught just seven passes and 80 yards in 14 games.

Growing up in Lansing, Michigan, Anthony had always envisioned putting on a Wolverines' uniform, but after a diminished role, the receiver wanted some more opportunities to highlight his abilities and saw the Sooners as a great spot to do that.

Anthony wasted no time proving to the nation that that electrifying game against Michigan State was no fluke after being Dillon Gabriel's go-to target on the outside to begin the 2023 season. In six games played, Anthony was well on his way to having that "breakout" year after leading Oklahoma with 27 receptions, while racking up 429 yards and 15.9 yards per catch. However, Anthony's season was cut short due to a season-ending torn ACL in the fourth quarter of the Red River Rivalry.

In his absence, Oklahoma receivers Drake Stoops, Nic Anderson, and Jalil Farooq offset Anthony's injury for the remainder of the Big 12 season. As Oklahoma heads into the SEC, Anderson, Farooq, and Purdue transfer Deion Burks are seen as focal points in the Oklahoma offense. Anthony's return should help ease Jackson Arnold into the quarterback position, but he would also complement Anderson and Burks in the vertical passing game. The wide receiver depth that the Sooners bring to the table in 2024 should have some SEC defensive coordinators staying up late at night.

Newly appointed Co-offensive coordinators Seth Littrell and Jo Jon Finley have many options available to them in Arnold's first season as the starter. Whether they use Anthony's versatility in the slot or on the outside, the Sooners offense doesn't look on paper like it should slow down at all despite the improved defenses that they will face.

If Anthony can stay healthy and maintain consistency, then Oklahoma fans should have a lot to look forward to in the passing game next season.