Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/30/12
NORMAN, Okla. - There was a time when wide receiver Kenny Stills had to answer all the questions on the field and answer for all the questions for everything off the field. Couldn't have been easy, either. While accomplished through his first two seasons, Stills returned for his junior year as the only receiver at Oklahoma with a single catch to his credit. Stills was expected to do big things, but after coach Bob Stoops suspended receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson, Stills was expected to do everything. The receiving group was thought to be one of the best in the country, and coupled with the return of fifth-year senior Landry Jones, the strongest part of the offense. In addition, receivers Trey Metoyer, highly spoken in the spring, isn't getting much of a whisper now and highly touted Courtney Gardner never made it to campus. So, how did the biggest problem become the biggest strength as the Sooners wrap up the regular season Saturday against TCU? "These receivers we've got have been awesome," coach Bob Stoops said. "They've been consistent. They've been a really a great group, unselfish, working together. Even the young guys have come in and done a great job." Good is one way to put it, surprising is another. With a combination of Stills, a freshman and a transfer, the receiving corp is doing exactly what most thought they could albeit with a whole different group of people. "They've gotten better," said Josh Heupel, co-offensive coordinator. "Landry has gotten more comfortable. Those guys have matured in a really good way. The new guys have adjusted." Yeah, you could say that. Transfers Justin Brown (Penn State) and Jalen Saunders (Fresno State), neither of who went through spring practice, have become OU's most-dependable players as well as punt returners. Brown tied a school record with 15 catches last week in a win against Oklahoma State. He also has a punt return for a touchdown and 62 catches on the season. Saunders missed the first four games of the season, waiting for his transfer to clear through the NCAA. Since, he has 46 catches and is averaging 94 yards receiving per game. He had 10 catches last week for 162 yards and a score against OSU as well as an 81-yard punt return for a TD, the first punt return for a touchdown in his career. And then there's Stills. The junior leads the team with 876 yards receiving, 11 touchdowns and 73 catches. He had four touchdown catches against West Virginia. A new group, but certainly improved, too. For the first time in school history, the Sooners had three receivers (Saunders, Brown, Stills) go for 100 or more receiving yards. "Once we got Justin and Jalen in there, I thought we were capable of something like this," Stills said. "When Jaz got suspended and things happened the way they did, I obviously didn't think that at the time." No one did, and maybe because of it, Jones got off to a slow start. But as the receivers have got more comfortable, Jones seems to have, too. "You lose a game and people think you can't coach, can't throw, can't block, you can't catch," Jones said. "We went back to work. All that paid off for us. I don't know if we drastically changes anything. I think the hard work and determination we put into this offense has really started to pay off." The result has been more than 1,000 yards of passing offense the past two weeks in a road win over West Virginia and a rally past Oklahoma State in Norman. And an offense that struggled early against UTEP and Kansas State, seems to be working pretty well now, bailing out an OU defense that played well the first half of the season, but hasn't been great lately. "There was some learning curve," Stoops said of the receivers. "I think Justin has played almost more than anyone here and Jalen had played a lot, so they know what it takes to play in a game." Brown will be gone next year, but everyone else returns, including freshman Sterling Sharp, who has 38 catches this season, along with Metoyer, who should be much improved. And once again, the Sooners will head into a season where the receivers are expected to be the strength of the team.
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