NORMAN — Sterling Shepard stood in front of reporters at Oklahoma’s football media day Saturday, answering questions about his new leadership role within the OU offense and — more specifically — the Sooners’ inexperienced wide receiver corps.
Several minutes into Shepard’s media session, I asked if it seemed strange that he’s already a junior in college.
“Man, yeah,” Shepard responded. “I feel like I was just talking to you last week when I was at Heritage Hall.”
The feeling is mutual.
Three years ago, I was on the high school sports beat at The Oklahoman, covering Shepard’s senior year at Heritage Hall. I was moved onto the OU football beat before the 2012 season, so I’ve watched as the former high school superstar became arguably the best player on a college football team with a legitimate shot at winning the national championship.
Shepard, The Oklahoman’s 2011 Little All-City Player of the Year has caught 96 passes for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns over his first two seasons at OU.
On media day, he talked about Dorial Green-Beckham, the leadership lessons he’s learned from past OU wideouts and playing both the inside and outside receiver positions in 2014.
Q: How is Dorial Green-Beckham fitting in with the receiver group?
A: “Great; Dorial’s a great receiver and we love having him in the meeting room. He’s a real funny guy and a great person when you get to know him.”
Are you hopeful he’ll be able to play this year?
“Oh yeah, for sure. He’ll be a great piece to the puzzle so we’re looking forward to seeing the results of that.”
What’s the biggest thing you took away from Kenny Stills and Jalen Saunders?
“Just how to play faster. This game is about speed and getting open fast, so I definitely wanted to perfect that. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it, but I’ve gotten the hang of it, so that’s what I’ve tried to teach the young guys. Just get open fast and the ball will start coming your way.”
Is the idea of playing both inside and outside this year exciting for you?
“I played a little outside (last year), but not as much as I’d like to. In high school I was always on the outside, and I told them I could do it. They gave me a little shot last year, and now I feel like that’s where I’m gonna be a lot.”
How does switching between the two spots change things?
“I had to work on my route running this summer. That’s what I focused on a lot; just running outside routes and getting the feel for outside, because I haven’t run it in a long time. I feel like I’ve adjusted a lot better. I had the slot down pat, so I kinda steered away from it a little bit and just focused on the outside.”