NCAA FB

New receivers catch on quickly for No. 14 Sooners

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP)

As training camp began at Oklahoma, quarterback Landry Jones had only one receiver present who had ever caught one of his passes before in a game.

That hasn't kept one of the NCAA's most productive passers ever from another prolific season.

Plugging transfers and freshmen into the lineup, the 14th-ranked Sooners (8-2, 6-1 Big 12) are averaging 334 yards passing. That puts them eighth in the nation, even though four other teams from the pass-happy Big 12 are in front of them.

That includes No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-3, 5-2), the Sooners' opponent this Saturday in the Bedlam rivalry game.

Junior Kenny Stills was the only returning receiver available after All-American Ryan Broyles departed for the NFL and coach Bob Stoops suspended three others - Kameel Jackson, Trey Franks and Jaz Reynolds. Jackson decided to transfer, but questions about when the others might return from suspension have faded away as their replacements have made them afterthoughts.

Senior Justin Brown filled one hole with a veteran, transferring in from Penn State shortly after training camp began. Jalen Saunders, Fresno State's top receiver last season, was declared eligible by the NCAA just before the Red River Rivalry game against Texas in October and immediately claimed a starting role in the slot. Freshmen Sterling Shepard, Trey Metoyer and Durron Neal have also chipped in from time to time.

''I'm so pleased about them. When you look at that group starting the year, it was one of the biggest question marks in the conference, and now they're a strong, good group,'' Stoops said. ''And what's helped now is Landry is comfortable with all of them, so he can just go through his reads and not have to force the ball to one particular guy.''

On Saturday night, Jones set a school record with 554 yards passing in a wild 50-49 win at West Virginia. Stills caught four of Jones' six touchdown passes, the most ever by an Oklahoma wide receiver. Brown, Stills, Shepard and Saunders each had at least 90 yards receiving.

Running back Damien Williams, another new addition who transferred in from junior college, caught six passes for 71 yards.

''Whenever you can get that many passing yards in a game, that's big. That just shows that when you go out and you do things well, you stay disciplined and you execute, that's what can happen,'' Brown said.

Jones' passing numbers have risen over the course of the season as he has grown more familiar with his new receiving options, with a big boost coming after the addition of Saunders led to heavier usage of a four-receiver set.

Oklahoma is averaging 374.5 yards passing over the past six games - 100 more than during the first four.

''I just think that comes from playing games. You have to be in critical situations and have success before guys really trust each other,'' co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jay Norvell said.

''Shep's made a bunch of big plays. Justin has now and Jalen certainly has made some in recent weeks, so there's no reason for him not to feel good about throwing the ball to those guys. I just think that there's a level of confidence that we didn't have earlier in the year just because of familiarity.''

The shootout with West Virginia was Jones' 11th game with at least 400 yards passing. There have been just four others in Oklahoma history. He ranks fourth - behind only Houston's Case Keenum, Hawaii's Timmy Chang and Texas Tech's Graham Harrell - in Division I history with 15,624 yards passing in his career.

Norvell said he believes Jones developed an understanding of how each receiver runs his routes during practice, but the real trust comes when they make plays in crunch time of a game.

''I think those guys have grown a lot in the way they've played as the way they've prepared and how hard they've worked,'' Jones said. ''I can't say enough about how much we've progressed as an offense with those guys and how explosive and how many plays we've made because of who they are.''

---

AP freelance writer Murray Evans contributed to this report.

Tagged: Oklahoma, Justin Brown, Landry Jones, Kenny Stills, Jalen Saunders

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