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OU Football: Sudden lack of experienced receivers conjures memories of Bob Stoops' first season

SHADES OF 1999 — The last time Oklahoma's football team was this starved for experienced receivers, Bob Stoops turned to five talented freshman.
by Jason Kersey Modified: May 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm •  Published: May 22, 2012
/articleid/3677728/1/pictures/1727525">Photo - Former OU tight end Trent Smith runs past South Florida's Allynson Sheffield in a 2002 game. OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVE PHOTO
Former OU tight end Trent Smith runs past South Florida's Allynson Sheffield in a 2002 game. OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVE PHOTO

“I think our naivety of being freshmen and sophomores when we accomplished all of that was probably in our favor,” Smith said. “It was a different time; hardly any of us had cell phones. We didn't really understand how much pressure was actually on us, and how much people in the state were looking to us to bring the glory back.”

The 2005 Sooners also brought back limited pass-catching experience, but senior wideout Travis Wilson and tight ends Bubba Moses and Joe Jon Finley made that group more seasoned than this one.

Shepard, as the son and nephew of former Sooners, is fully aware of Oklahoma's tradition and the microscope OU players live under.

“(Playing at OU) is something I've always wanted to do, since I was a little kid,” Shepard said. “Now it's just weeks away so it's definitely exciting. I've been trying to stay focused.

“(The suspensions are) disappointing. I looked up to those guys on the field and was looking forward to them teaching me some things.”

Shepard and Neal both said they expected to compete for playing time regardless.

“I was planning on coming in, working my butt off and doing what I was told,” Neal said. “Now that this happened, it's making me work 10 times harder to make sure I'm mentally and physically prepared.”

Fagan, Mackey, Savage, Smith and Woolfolk all contributed as freshmen and went on to become one of the best receiving groups Stoops has had in Norman. All five were integral on OU's 2000 national championship team as sophomores.

Mackey played until being forced to give up football during his junior season after suffering a series of concussions.

“We certainly weren't lacking for confidence (as freshmen),” Smith said, “but if you'd have told any of us that we were going to win the national championship within two years, I don't know that we would have believed you.”

by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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