|The Sooners may be playing without their Jaz hands in the fall.|
For a program with as much visibility as Oklahoma, suspending three wide receivers with starting experience is going to have a massive headline effect. An announcement like the one the Sooners made Wednesday night that Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson definitely produces an unavoidable kind of “oh shit” reaction for an OU fan.
If the three aren’t reinstated – and I don’t exactly understand how Jackson can be suspended when he has already announced that he’s leaving the team – it would leave Kenny Stills as the only Sooner tight end or receiver with a catch heading into the 2012 season. In fact, 64 percent of OU’s catches from 2011 would be gone if you include players who either graduated or transferred.
I get that, but I just don’t see this as a huge deal.
For starters, as I mentioned, the fact that Jackson is suspended makes no sense to me, seeing as he told the world days ago that he intends to transfer to Texas A&M. (Without having discussed it with the Aggies, but that’s a story for another time.) He showed flashes of becoming a solid contributor last season as a freshman working out of the slot, but I have to assume that it will be up to another program to find out how good he can be.
Franks and Reynolds, of course, are riding a horse of a different color. Despite playing in only 10 of OU’s 13 games, Reynolds finished the season as the team’s third-leading receiver with 41 receptions for 715 yards and 5 touchdowns. He gained national attention with eye-catching performances against Texas and Kansas St., and he gave the Sooners a strong deep threat (17.4 yards per catch) to complement Ryan Broyles and Stills.
Meanwhile, Franks showed the coaching staff enough as a freshman in 2010 to earn a starting spot. He was also a key contributor on special teams as a kickoff returner.
Yet, even without this latest incident, both will/would be fighting for playing time in the fall. Based on spring ball, Trey Metoyer will likely slide in right away as OU’s top receiving threat. Stills may have been inconsistent last season, but he’s done enough in the last two years to pretty much solidify his spot in the starting rotation. Assuming talented JUCO receiver Courtney Gardner makes it to Norman this summer, he looks like he’ll be in the mix immediately. The Sooners also have a trio of four-star freshman receivers hitting campus this summer in Durron Neal, Sterling Shepard and Derrick Woods.
In other words, there is way more than enough talent on hand to offset the losses from a production standpoint if Franks and Reynolds never play another down for the Crimson and Cream.
The bigger issue might be the Chinese water torture being performed on OU’s depth and experience at receiver. It’s hard enough to lose one of the best receivers in college football history, but trying to replace him with newcomers just adds an extra degree of difficulty. Like it or not, Reynolds and Franks both have years of “institutional knowledge” regarding OU’s schemes, philosophies and general way of doing things. Blocking, on-field communication, chemistry with other players – it takes time for players to get that kind of seasoning. However inconsistent they’ve been throughout their career, we’ve also seen them perform when the lights come on, not just in practice away from the cameras.
In the end, though, don’t forget that Reynolds and Franks were part of a team that fell well below expectations a year ago. Both struggled to stay in the coaching staff’s good graces then, too. At this point, their absence may do more good than harm.