Tahlequah Daily Press

April 15, 2012

Receivers steal show at OU spring game

By JOHN SHINN
CNHI

— NORMAN — Oklahoma may not be able to find one player who's able to replace the record-setting pass-catching ability of All-American receiver Ryan Broyles.

At the least, the Sooners have some candidates stepping forward to try and fill that void.

Jaz Reynolds caught a 60-yard touchdown pass and freshman Trey Metoyer also shined in Oklahoma's spring game on Saturday, which the offense won with a late touchdown connection between redshirt freshmen Kendal Thompson and Danzel Williams.

The Sooners will be seeking at least one receiver who can take on a bigger role next season after the departure of Broyles, who set the NCAA record with 349 receptions during his college career. He was an All-American in 2010 and a second-team selection in 2011, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in November.

Juniors Kenny Stills, Trey Franks and Reynolds have already established roles in Oklahoma's offense, although none has had to be the featured receiver because of Broyles' presence. Metoyer, who was one of the nation's top high-school receivers before failing to qualify prior to last season, has earned high praise from coaches and teammates during closed spring practices.

His performance Saturday — six catches for a team-high 72 yards — was the first time anyone outside the team had seen what he could do.

The question still remains whether any will be able to produce at or near Broyles' unprecedented level.

"There's no reason any of those guys can't be that guy but I don't know that you need that guy. I would prefer that we have three guys playing at that type of level," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "That would be best for us."

"Are we going to get that? I don't know."

Stills was Oklahoma's No. 2 receiver, with 61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns, but he talked during the spring of how tough it was to adjust to Broyles' absence last season. He had a series of drops during the spring game, played with gusting winds at Owen Field.

The start time was even moved up 30 minutes, so the game could be wrapped up before severe storms that were expected later in the afternoon.

Reynolds emerged late in the season but then missed the Sooners' win in the Insight Bowl after landing in the hospital with a kidney injury suffered in the regular-season finale at Oklahoma State.

"We knew the time was coming when Ryan was going to leave, but when he got hurt it was kind of rough," Reynolds said. "So, now me and Kenny are taking over the leadership roles and making sure everything is intact as far as the receiving corps."

Reynolds returned to practice this spring, and coach Bob Stoops says he's doing so well that he's going to skip follow-up surgery.

"He seems like he's at full strength. I'm sure the farther he gets away from that injury and the longer he's training in the weight room, he'll continue to get stronger and faster," Stoops said.

"He's doing really well. He's had a really good spring."

Reynolds said he regained the weight he lost while he was in the hospital and was able to get faster during the spring. Perhaps just as importantly, he regained the confidence that his body is able to take hits.

"The only thing I need to work on right now is just my stamina, being able to be out there for a long time, and get back in game shape," Reynolds said.

Quarterback Landry Jones played only the first series, driving 12 plays in 7 minutes for a 25-yard Michael Hunnicutt field goal. Backups Blake Bell, Drew Allen and Thompson took the rest of the snaps.

Metoyer was the first individual Stoops singled out for having a strong performance.

"Trey showed what I've been talking about all spring — his ability to make plays," Stoops said.

He's just got incredible hands, ability to make plays, a knack for adjusting for the football, all the things you saw today," he added. "He can run and he really relishes the moment. He's a competitor, for a young guy."