NORMAN — Oklahoma’s receivers set an early season standard with last Saturday’s performance at UTEP and it wasn’t the one they wanted.
“We were frustrated with the way we played,” said slot receiver Kenny Stills, who was the bright spot with six receptions for 121 yards and a 68-yard touchdown catch in the fifth-ranked Sooners’ 24-7 victory over the Miners.
The frustration came in almost every aspect of their play. When asked on Tuesday what needs to improve, receivers coach Jay Norvell named a long list and then summed it up in one word.
“Precision,” he said.
It was no shock to Stills, who, playing in his 25th career game last Saturday, seemed to thrive. Even senior Justin Brown, who played his first game at Oklahoma after playing three years at Penn State, displayed the skills of the veteran.
Freshman Trey Metoyer, however, proved he’s not going to make an immediate transition from five-star recruit to college stardom. His four catches for 21 yards wasn’t the spectacular debut the Sooner fan base was expecting.
“I could have done better,” he said. “I think now that I have the speed down and I got some game experience. Hopefully, I’ll be ready for the next game.”
It will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at Owen Field when OU (1-0) faces Florida A&M (0-1). The challenge for OU’s receivers is to raise their level of play a couple notches over the season opener.
Norvell has said since preseason practice began that the youth of OU’s receivers was going to be an issue. The rational goal is for them to improve every week.
“We knew we would have growing pains with new guys that hadn’t been in there, and we did have some. At the same time, we practice and we expect execution on game day,” Norvell said. “We have to improve from what we saw from Game 1 to Game 2 and every week throughout the season. Good teams pay attention, they study, they get better. All we ask our guys to do is get better every day when we go on the practice field. If we do that, we’ll continue to do that. We have a lot of good players.”
There weren’t many opportunities to show it. OU quarterback Landry Jones was 21-for-36 against UTEP, but only 14 of those completions were to receivers. Six went to running backs and there was an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brannon Green.
Receivers have to get open in order to get the ball. That didn’t happen enough at UTEP. On the other hand, the offensive pace was fairly slow against the Miners (73 plays). Norvell expects things will speed up against the Rattlers, opening more opportunities.
“We have a lot of new guys that are playing in our system for the first time. The more they understand, the more we push them to play faster, the faster we’ll play. I expect that to improve as we go along,” he said. “We have to take the training wheels off these guys. We have to go. We will. We’re doing more of the things we do. We’re anxious to play again and improve what we’re doing.”
Improving is the goal for the week. Whether OU played like a well-oiled machine against UTEP or not, it has to make improvement in every game to remain in Big 12 and national championship contention. There’s no finished products in September.
“That’s why we practice,” Brown said, “and we came back to practice and worked on the mistakes we had (to) make sure they’re cleaned up for this week.”
John Shinn Follow me @john_shinn firstname.lastname@example.org