Perhaps the biggest task for the Sooners’ 2016 offense will be replacing the production of wideout Sterling Shepard, who finished his senior season with 1,288 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns a year ago. The good news for receiver coaches Cale Gundy (inside) and Dennis Simmons (outside) is OU has plenty of talented pass catchers ready to step into the spotlight.
Senior Dede Westbrook is the Sooners’ most productive returning receiver. The 6-foot, 175-pound speedster has shown an ability to stretch the field vertically as well as be a consistent option in the short and intermediate passing games. As a junior last season he hauled in 46 passes for 743 yards and four touchdowns en route to being named Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.
Oklahoma will also return a pair of inside receivers who, while fairly opposite in stature, were both productive during the 2015 College Football Playoff run. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, Mark Andrews was a consistent scoring threat for the Sooners last season. Of the redshirt sophomore’s 19 receptions, seven went for touchdowns. Andrews, who played primarily flexed out to the slot in 2015, should see much more action in 2016.
Junior college transfer Jarvis Baxter, now a senior, also saw time in the slot last year. Joining the team as a walk-on transfer from Trinity Valley Community College, the 5-11, 175-pound Baxter quickly earned a place in the offense and even started in five games, serving primarily as OU’s fourth wide receiver. He grabbed 20 passes for a total of 218 yards and one touchdown.
New to Oklahoma but not to the FBS ranks, Penn State graduate transfer Geno Lewis is expected to impact the receiving corps. Lewis hauled in 90 passes for 1,181 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons for the Nittany Lions and will look to follow in former Sooner Justin Brown’s footsteps as a Penn State receiver transfer who can add production as well as a veteran presence.
Sophomore A.D. Miller has made quite a bit of buzz during August camp. A 6-3, 196-pounder from Dallas, Texas, he played in six games a year ago, making one start and grabbing two passes for 16 yards. He has impressed in camp with his ability to separate from defenders and make tough, contested catches. Miller's play has earned him the trust of quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Another name that has been heard often throughout preseason practices is that of local product Nick Basquine (BASS-kwin). Hailing from Norman, Okla., the 5-11, 190-pound Basquine has been a favorite target of Mayfield. Basquine will likely be part of the Sooners’ rotation at inside receiver thanks to his spring and summer of playmaking.
The Sooners have a stable of big-bodied pass catchers eager to make their mark this year. Dahu Green (sophomore) and Jeffery Mead (junior), who both stand at least 6-4, will look to earn a consistent place in Riley’s offense in 2016, as will redshirt junior Jordan Smallwood. Smallwood is a 6-2, 220-pound product of Jenks, Okla., who saw action in seven games a year ago after returning from an injury.
OU could also see production from incoming freshmen Zach Farrar and Mykel Jones, both four-star prospects. Both young playmakers are eager to find their spot in the rotation and Jones could also see time in the Sooners’ return games.
Additionally, Oklahoma has a valuable passing game asset in fullback Dimitri Flowers. Lining up at running back, fullback, tight end, H-back and even receiver in 2015, Flowers hauled in eight passes – four of them touchdowns – for 130 yards. A hard-nosed blocker at the point of attack, Flowers boasts soft hands that make him a dangerous weapon if unaccounted for and Riley is sure to take advantage of his versatility again in 2016.