The Sooners face a challenge at receiver not unlike the situation along the offensive line. With Juaquin Iglesias, Manuel Johnson and Quentin Chaney off to pursue their destinies, OU has to replace three major contributors from 2008. That’s nearly half of its catches from last season.
TE Jermaine Gresham returns after turning down a likely first round spot in the NFL draft, softening the blow a bit. Gresham hauled in 66 catches for 950 yards last year. That translates into 14.4 yards per reception–not bad for a tight end. It’s not a stretch to think Gresham could play the feature role in the passing game. Think Kellen Winslow soldiering up at The U.
At wideout, sophomore Ryan Broyles started the season off last year with a bang against Cincinnati with seven catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t match that level of production in any one game again, but he continued to provide big plays all year, averaging 15 yards per catch. Broyles has good speed to go along with shiftiness, making him a dangerous threat in the open field and catching the ball on the run. He goes after the ball aggressively in the air, too, so the transition to the outside receiving spot shouldn’t be too tough.
Hard luck case Adron Tennell
has impressed the OU coaches since he first set foot on campus in 2006. Since then, of course, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for an entire season. It’s tough to imagine that the compilation of injuries hasn’t robbed him of some of his athleticism. Tennell reportedly had another outstanding offseason and managed to stay injury free. If he’s healthy for an entire year, Tennell could be in for a big year. Based on his history, that’s a tall order.
One of the major wild cards in the mix for the Sooners this year is juco transfer Cameron Kenney
. A high school soccer star, Kenney only played one year of varsity football. In two seasons at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, the all-purpose specialist proved himself to be a monster as a receiver and kick returner, while handling kicking and punting duties as well. Kenney’s teammates have raved about his potential lately, and don’t be shocked if he gets reps from the jump. He may even compete for the punter job.
Junior Mossis Madu
made the move from running back to slot receiver in the fall in an effort to get the electric playmaker on the field more often. With a numbers crunch in the backfield, putting Madu in the slot gives offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson yet another weapon at his disposal. Whether or not he has the hands to make it work has yet to be seen. Madu may not be long for the receiving corps, though, if injuries start to take their toll on DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown.
H-back/tight end Brody Eldridge
is a punishing blocker who provides a nice safety outlet for Sam Bradford, but he’s not going to be much of a threat in the passing game. Sophomore Dejuan Miller
is a tall target who could be a threat in the red zone and other jump ball situations. Miller’s classmate Jameel Owens
also will compete for time and could work his way onto the field more often as the season progresses.
While OU’s personnel losses at receiver mirror the situation at offensive line, the silver lining for the unit is there as well. Although the new guys may be unproven, the talent is there for this to be a particularly strong group.