Ex-Penn State WR Brown joins Sooners
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)
In one day, Oklahoma suddenly doubled the number of experienced receivers that will take the field for the Sooners in the season opener.
Former Penn State receiver Justin Brown went through his first practice with the Sooners on Tuesday, completing the process of transferring that started last week. Brown, a senior, will be eligible to play this season because of the NCAA's penalties against Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.
He was dropped from the Nittany Lions' roster Sunday, arrived in Norman on Monday night and was able to hit the field with his new team by Tuesday morning.
Before Brown's arrival, Kenny Stills was the only Sooners receiver who had caught a pass in college and wasn't suspended indefinitely.
''I can't say enough, looking out there today when you see him added to the equation, a guy that's a senior that has three years' experience of playing and fighting people, crack back blocking on people, and catching the ball,'' coach Bob Stoops said.
''He's a natural catching the football, so he's going to bring a ton. It's going to be exciting.''
Brown was the second-leading receiver for the Nittany Lions last season, with 35 catches for 517 yards and three touchdowns. He is one of nine players to leave Penn State this offseason and the second offensive starter to depart, after running back Silas Redd transferred to Southern California.
''It was very difficult and emotional,'' Brown said. ''I talked to (my teammates) before I made the decision and while I was in the process and they told me to just make the best decision for you and they told me they were going to support me either way.
''That meant a lot to have their approval, especially since I have been playing with them for three years.''
The Sooners did their best to bolster a receiving corps that was suspect after All-American Ryan Broyles suffered a season-ending knee injury last season then headed off to the NFL.
They recruited a slew of high school pass-catchers, including Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal, Derrick Woods and LaColtan Bester. Trey Metoyer, a top-rated recruit a year ago, went to military school for a semester to get eligible after he didn't qualify last fall.
The suspensions of part-time starters Trey Franks and Jaz Reynolds, plus the dismissal of Kameel Jackson weakened the group and made it a big question mark heading into training camp. And then, there was another hit when junior college transfer Courtney Gardner didn't make it into school.
''The proof's in the pudding but we have good athletes. We wouldn't have brought them here if we didn't think they were,'' said co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who is in charge of the receivers.
''The kids are kind of what we expected. We like a lot of our young skill players. The receivers and the running backs, especially, are strong and fast. That's exciting, especially the way we play. If we can integrate them into our system and have them have a role they will definitely help us this fall. But that speed is showing up. It's hard to say until we get a little deeper into training camp what type of role those guys have.''
Stills, a junior, is expected to be the leader of the group although he's still being groomed in that role by his coaches. A mohawked free spirit, Stills has previously gotten himself into trouble for his posts on Twitter and also was arrested on a driving under the influence complaint last year.
Now, he's the veteran of the group.
''I don't feel like it's anything different. Ryan's been here and been the leader for us. But I feel like I've always been a guy that's tried to correct people and kind of make little changes here and there,'' Stills said. ''I'm still a student of the game, even though I'm the veteran receiver. The younger guys are doing a great job. They're wanting to learn every day. They come out with the right attitude, and I feel like that's the most important thing for us.''
Norvell said Stills' problems are all related to maturity and he admitted that ''he's going to be a leader either way; it's just whether he's doing it the way we want him to do it.''
''He wants to push himself to the next level. He's really at the same spot Ryan Broyles was a couple years ago, before Ryan had his All-American season. He's right there,'' Norvell said. ''He's played really well at times, he's shown special things and then he's been inconsistent. Really good players aren't inconsistent.
''He's trying to make that part of his personality. He's been challenged that way. We need him offensively to be the guy that plays great all the time, and I think he's looking forward to that challenge.''
The addition of Brown only makes the receiver position look stronger.
''We went from everybody wondering to all of a sudden it got a chance to be pretty good,'' Stoops said. ''So we'll see, you know, we're not there yet. It's only been five practices but we're headed that direction.''