In 2009, despite the loss of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford, the Oklahoma Sooners still managed to have one of the more potent passing offenses in the country.
The Sooners ranked 10th in the country in passing offense, averaging 289.2 yards a game.
Landry Jones stepped up and filled in admirably for Bradford, throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns. However, Jones was also very inconsistent throughout the season, completing only 58 percent of his passes and throwing 14 interceptions.
As great as Jones did in his trial by fire first season, the main reason for the continuing threat of the Sooners' passing game was the emergence of electric sophomore wide receiver Ryan Broyles.
Broyles, now a junior, caught 89 passes for 1,120 yards and 15 touchdowns in his coming out season. Broyles also was the Sooners' top punt returner, averaging 16 yards per return, including an 87-yard return for a touchdown that put the exclamation point on a 27-0 Bedlam beatdown of Oklahoma State in the season finale.
However, there is major concern when looking at Broyles' supporting cast at the receiver position. The second leading receiver for the Sooners in 2009 was DeJuan Miller, whose numbers, 36 catches for 434 yards, are barely a third of what Broyles had last season.
For the Sooners to be successful in 2010 in throwing the football, others are going to have to step up and provide targets for Landry Jones to throw to.
Part of the problem last season was Jones himself. Jones was very comfortable in throwing to Broyles and it shows up very clearly in the stat sheet. Broyles was almost always Jones' first target, sometimes even when he shouldn't have been. It was some of these forced passes that resulted in Jones' 14-interception total.
In 2010, opponents won't be unaware of Broyles and his talent. Jones is going to have to look elsewhere when Broyles is double and triple teamed during games. However, other people are going to have to step up in order for Jones to have confidence in them.
The Sooners receiving corps is loaded with plenty of talent. It's simply a matter of having that talent perform in games.
Miller may be the most talented receiver behind Broyles. At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Miller is a very large target that Jones can rely on for jump balls and tough passes over the middle.
The most exciting piece of this unit is the arrival of freshman Kenny Stills. Stills, a native of Encinitas, CA, a coastal town between Los Angeles and San Diego, came to Norman for spring practice and wowed fans at the annual Red and White game by catching six passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Stills brings loads of talent to complement Broyles on the outside. His 4.4 speed is a huge key for the Sooners. While Stills is only a true freshman, he is going to see the field a lot in the fall and possibly crack the starting lineup at some point in the season.
The rest of the receivers are all very capable, but no one has really established himself as a huge threat. Sophomore Jaz Reynolds has stepped his game up drastically since last year. Reynolds also had a big spring game and should secure a starting spot in the fall.
Cameron Kenney and Brandon Caleb are the only seniors in the receiving corps and both provide capable hands for Jones and also veteran leadership.
The departures of Jermaine Gresham and Brody Eldridge have left a very large hole at the tight end position. Trent Ratterree and James Hanna look to be the frontrunners to replace them, but freshman Austin Haywood should also be in the mix to get some playing time.
Oklahoma has a ton of potential and the ability to step up and take control of the Big 12 in what is looking to be a slight down year for the conference. However, this unit will have to step up if the success of the Sooners' offense is to continue into 2010 and beyond.
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