But after Lacoltan Bester and Justin Brown each transferred in, from East Mississippi Community College and Penn State, respectively, Shepard finds himself in a much more crowded competition for catches and playing time.
Shepard is one of four true freshmen wideouts in the Sooners' fall camp, along with Durron Neal, Derrick Woods and, of course, Trey Metoyer, who is all but guaranteed to start and quickly become one of quarterback Landry Jones' favorite targets.
Kenny Stills tried his hand in the slot last season after Broyles tore his ACL, but struggled to develop chemistry with Jones in the unfamiliar position. Word out of camp, though, is that Stills is again working in the slot, with some combination of Bester, Brown and Metoyer on the outside.
So where does that leave Shepard?
A redshirt seems unlikely; coaches and players alike continue to praise Shepard, who is expected to return kicks and see time at receiver — how much time remains to be seen — as a freshman.
“He's a pretty natural route runner,” Jones said. “He knows how to use his body and his hands to get open.”
Said offensive coordinator Josh Heupel: “He's not the biggest guy, but he plays strong. He understands leverage. He likes to lean on guys and use his body to create some separation. He uses his hands, as far as a young wide receiver coming off of the line of scrimmage, maybe as good as anybody I've been around.”
The same praise was once awarded to Derrick Shepard. His son, a 6-year old when Derrick Shepard died from a heart attack, continues to embrace his family's OU football legacy.
Sterling Shepard is the fourth member of his family to play football for the Sooners, joining his dad and two uncles, Woodie and Darrell.
That legacy is why Sterling Shepard picked Oklahoma over several other, impressive scholarship offers. It's why he grew up dreaming of a Sooner football career.
It's also why he chose to wear jersey No. 3, just like his father once did.
Said Shepard in February 2011, when he committed to OU, “This is where my heart is.”