NORMAN — Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell seems intent on luring another strong group of wide receivers to Norman in the 2014 recruiting class.
Four-star prospect Dallis Todd, from La Mirada, Calif., committed last month, and Norvell has already established strong relationships with coveted wideouts like Mark Andrews (6-foot-6, 225 pounds from Scottsdale, Ariz.), Dorian Leonard (6-4, 200 pounds from Longview, Texas) and Tulsa Union's Jeffery Mead (6-5, 179 pounds).
Height is one noticeable attribute linking those prospects, and it could make Oklahoma's 2014 receiver class unique.
“Coach Norvell said that they're starting to look at the taller receivers because they have a lot of young slot receivers, inside receivers,” Todd said.
Oklahoma's past few groups of incoming pass catchers have been built to fill gaps in its returning receiver corps. In 2012, OU signed Sterling Shepard out of Heritage Hall, then added Jalen Saunders, who transferred from Fresno State. Both made immediate impacts as slot receivers last season as the Sooners sought to replace Ryan Broyles' production.
Oklahoma lost top outside threats Kenny Stills and Justin Brown from last year's team, and its 2013 receiver signees reflected that. None of them are under 6-feet in height.
Still, many of Oklahoma's top 2014 receiver targets are unusually tall considering many of the program's recent receiver signees.
The Sooners added 6-foot-5 wideout Dannon Cavil in the 2013 class; Cavil enrolled early and went through spring football practices, but missed the spring game with a minor injury.
Todd said he also plans to enroll early and begin competing for playing time next spring.
“I'll be going to Oklahoma in January, and (Norvell) said I could have a legitimate chance of playing my freshman year,” Todd said.
Since 2008, Oklahoma has signed just two wide receivers who stood taller than 6-foot-4 — Cavil and Dejuan Miller, who signed in 2008 and finished his four-year college career with 75 catches, 892 yards and two touchdowns.
The most obvious edge a tall receiver carries is the ability to outjump defenders to come down with catches.
“You've gotta be as accurate as you can, but if you know you've got a big guy, you can throw the ball up there and hopefully they can make plays on it,” said Edmond Santa Fe senior quarterback Justice Hansen, who is committed to OU.
But Todd said his size gives him another, less talked-about, advantage.
“The way I can block out a defender from the ball is one major part that a lot of people don't realize,” Todd said.
The unusual amount of taller wideout targets doesn't necessarily reflect a change in philosophy, but largely stems from Norvell's ability to connect with these specific receivers. For example, Todd has lots of family in Oklahoma, and Andrews' brother is a student at the OU Medical Center.
“Some of that may just be coincidence, but it is interesting to note just how big those guys are,” said Josh McCuistion, who covers OU recruiting for the Rivals network site SoonerScoop.com. “As big as Justin Brown was, he doesn't match up with any of those guys.”