Stills balances business, fun for No. 5 Oklahoma
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)
Through two games, he has been up to the task.
Stills ranks eighth in the nation so far with 120.5 yards receiving per game, putting together back-to-back 100-yard games for only the second time in his career. He caught 10 passes for 120 yards in a 69-13 win against Florida A&M on Saturday night, hauling in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Landry Jones for his second score of the season.
But more than just production, Stills is being called upon to provide veteran guidance to group of receivers lacking experience. Through most of the offseason, he was the only Sooners receiver who had caught a pass in a college game and wasn't suspended.
That changed when Justin Brown transferred from Penn State after training camp started, but Stills was still the only one who knew the ropes at Oklahoma as the Sooners tried to break in freshmen Trey Metoyer, Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal.
''I'm definitely trying to change my attitude, not in the fun side of me but just kind of knowing when to focus, when to shut everybody else out and to just go out there and take care of business,'' Stills said. ''And it's been working for me.''
Stills wears his black hair in a mohawk, with a bright blonde streak dyed into it. He's a self-described free spirit who loves all kinds of music and speaks his mind - even when it has gotten him into trouble, like when he stirred up controversy last offseason by criticizing Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon on Twitter.
He was also suspended for last year's season opener after his arrest on a DUI complaint.
Those days seem to be behind him now.
''Definitely, Kenny's been much more businesslike in everything that he's doing and is accepting more of a leadership position and is really working hard,'' coach Bob Stoops said.
Before the season, receivers coach Jay Norvell called on Stills to be more mature and play consistently great, not up and down.
Stills had a chance to shine late last season after Broyles was lost to a season-ending knee injury, but at that time he wasn't ready to step up and be the team's new No. 1 receiver.
So far, that's exactly what he's been in 2012, with twice as many catches as anyone else on the team.
''When Ryan was here, I knew that the ball was going his way and I was just trying to get open for when he got the double teams and I was single-covered,'' Stills said. ''Now I feel like we need somebody to establish himself as a playmaker and I'm trying to do that.''
Stills said he can't compare himself with Broyles and his record-setting production. What he hopes to do is ''make the big plays for Landry and I hope the offense will count on me to make plays.''
''I just want to lead by example,'' Stills said. ''If they see me mess around, then they know it's OK and they're going to do the same thing. I've got to go out and show them how it's supposed to be done.''
Part of that is being critical of his own performances. For example, he was more upset about the one potential touchdown pass he dropped in the end zone than he was happy about the 10 receptions he made on Saturday night.
''No drops,'' he said. ''That's embarrassing and it looks bad.''
With Stills leading the way, the Sooners aired it out more against Florida A&M than in Week 1 at UTEP. Stills caught three passes longer than 20 yards, dropped what would have been a 40-yard scoring pass and went crashing into the band and a brick wall when Jones overthrew the end zone on a 41-yard shot.
Stills called it taking ''the training wheels off'' the offense. Stoops said he wants to see it against stiffer competition, like when the Sooners host No. 15 Kansas State on Sept. 22. The Wildcats jumped six spots in the rankings after beating Miami 52-13.
''I don't want to take away the execution of our guys because sometimes, regardless of who you're playing, sometimes it's just you. A guy not slipping and falling on a curl route when they're wide open, not fading out of bounds when you've got the play. Some of the things I thought a week ago that were on us, we did do better.
''But again, are you able to do it under the stress of the real competition? That's what we've got to keep pushing for.''