The Oklahoma Sooners, who again are expected to be preseason football favorites in the new-look Big 12 Conference this fall, may have closed the gap somewhat with their projected challengers next season by suspending four players, including three of their four starting receivers, for 2012.
The four players who were dismissed from the team indefinitely were starting wide- receiver Jaz Reynolds, receiver and kick-returner Trey Franks, reserve safety Quentin Hayes and backup receiver Kameel Jackson. Reynolds and Franks will be juniors and Hayes and Jackson will be sophomores. Franks' suspension is for the entire 2012 season. Reynolds' will sit out a minimum of seven games, according to head coach Bob Stoops.
All OU officials are saying about the player actions is the boilerplate response that the four have been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Reynolds caught 41 passes last season for 715 yards. The three ousted receivers combined had 75 receptions for 1,076 yards, a quarter of Sooners' total passing yardage for the season.
While the loss of the three receivers with game experience will definitely alter Oklahoma's offensive plans for the coming season, don't expect it to have a crippling affect on the Sooners' title hopes. Elite teams like Oklahoma always have good players, often several teams deep, behind the first-teamers. As it so happens, OU's deepest position coming into the 2012 season was expected to be at wide receiver.
Freshman wide-receiver Trey Metoyer was one of the country's highest-ranked players at the position coming out of high school, but he was ruled ineligible for the 2011 season. Metoyer, who was one of the stars in OU's annual Red-White spring game last month, will likely take Reynolds' position while he is out. Metoyer caught six passes for 72 yards in OU's spring practice finale.
"He (Metoyer) has the talent to be a special player," Oklahoma offensive coordinator and former quarterback Josh Heupel said after the spring game. "Ultimately, those things are determined by the way they approach every single day, but from January to now, he has those types of characteristics."
The Sooners also have three other promising freshman from whom the coaching staff is expecting big things as they develop and earn playing time. ESPN.com ranked all three, along with Metoyer, as four-star recruits.
And it should not be overlooked that the six-time Big 12 champion Sooners have quarterback Landry Jones returning for his senior season as well as No. 1 receiver Kenny Stills, who caught 61 passes for 849 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011.
Stoops has said all along that no player or players are bigger than the program and that he won't tolerate players who violate team rules. He walked this talk quite vividly and decisively at the start of the 2006 season in dismissing two starters, including starting quarterback Rhett Bomar, from the team. Stoops led the Sooners to an 11-3 record overall that season (7-1 in the conference)and their fourth conference crown under his coaching.
"You're here to go to school and to be a heck of a football player, or at least try to be," said Stoops last season when asked about disciplinary actions taken against several players, including Franks. "If you're not living up to those obligations, you're not earning your way. You're bringing the team down."
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