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April 10, 2012
OU receivers improving, more on the way
Trey Metoyer stealing so many headlines during spring football, it is interesting to note other receivers are starting to develop outside of Kenny Stills and OU's newest freshan. After all, last season the Sooners proved they need much more than just Stills to be an effective passing offense.With
"Trey Franks has had a very good spring," said wide receivers coach Jay Norvell. "All of our guys, we meet with them on their weaknesses and we want to work with them on their route running, or catching in traffic, or stemming guys on their routes. Trey Franks has made tremendous progress this spring, especially in the last week-and-a-half. His maturity and his focus, the little things we need, he's really been good."
Franks' emergence is something Oklahoma can use. They don't have a legitimate slot receiver to replace Broyles as Stills and Metoyer are more at home as outside receivers.
Stills filled in for Broyles last season, but he was never as effective as a slot receiver. If Franks can become that type of player, it should free up Stills to make big plays down the field once again.
It also appears Kameel Jackson is making leaps this spring after coming on strong late last season.
"Kameel (Jackson) is a guy that's gaining confidence as a player so he's stronger and more physical and more explosive than he ever has been," Norvell said. "We've got a lot of flexibility. We have guys we can play all over the field which gives us a lot of flexibility to play guys and that's been another good thing this spring."
The other receiver many Sooner fans have been a bit impatient over is Jaz Reynolds. Reynolds wasn't even supposed to practice this spring, but he put off a kidney surgery in order to be on the practice field the last two months.
Norvell has been pleased with his progress.
"Jaz has had a tremendous spring and you talk about sacrifice, he was a guy that was in a hospital bed not long ago and didn't know if he was going to be able to practice this spring and he was thinking about getting surgery and decided not to and he's out there every day showing leadership and working," he said. "He's had a tremendous spring as well."
The hardest part of Norvell's job probably won't come until next fall. That's when the Sooners are expected to welcome in four potential difference makers at the wide receiver position.
The most mature and game-ready will likely be junior college transfer Courtney Gardner. But he'll be joined by the state of Oklahoma's best receiver in Sterling Shepard, as well as U.S. Army All-Americans Durron Neal and Derrick Woods.
So how will Norvell make this work? After working so hard to get Stills, Metoyer and Franks a bigger part of the offense this spring, how does he start over trying to work in newcomers?
"It's the thing that we do," answered Norvell. "They'll come in and they'll start getting acclimated over the summer and we can't really work with them, but they'll start to work with the guys.
"When fall camp comes we'll just pour them in there. You can tell pretty quickly if a kid's going to be able to help as a freshman. If they have a feel and a maturity and they can compete, you feel pretty good about giving them opportunities."
One of the biggest keys for acclimating these freshmen and transfers will be in arriving to campus as early as possible this summer.
"There's no question," said Norvell about getting in to school this summer. "It's always preferable, but you've got to do what you've got to do sometimes."
It wasn't long ago when Junior College transfer Cameron Kenney was late getting into fall camp because of academics. He didn't arrive until fall camp had already started. The Sooners needed extra receivers in 2009 after the losses of Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson.
But the late arrival of Kenney made him a non-factor that season.
Oklahoma can't afford a similar situation with Gardner or the other young receivers. Unless that player is really, really special.
"It all depends on the kid too. Some kids just aren't phased by it and they just come in and make plays," said Norvell. "Some guys, it takes them a little bit longer. It's really hard to tell until you get them here in this environment, to know exactly how they're going to respond."
While Franks' emergence, along with others, is a massive positive for Oklahoma this spring, these youngsters need to become Sooners as quickly as possible.
It's possible just the talk of their arrival is providing a sense of urgency for this current group of receivers to get better.
Those improvements are only expected to continue when they all start fighting for spots next fall.