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.”