FRISCO, Texas — Oklahoma football lost several nationally relevant skill-position players to the NFL draft after last season. However, the Sooners believe there will not be any issues as they replace all that talent.
“I think we have a deep stable of running backs that’s the deepest I’ve ever played with,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “Overall at receiver, it’s the most depth we’ve had in a long time.
“I think we’re going to be more balanced at receiver and have more depth.”
It’s a strong statement about a roster that lost so much. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook won the Biletnikoff Award last season and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine each posted more than 1,000 yards, and they’re gone, too.
In fact, the leading returning rusher posted 283 yards. The leading returning receiver had 489 yards — at tight end. There certainly won’t be a Westbrook-level talent eating all the catches this season. However, coach Lincoln Riley believes a few players have a shot at stardom.
“I think we can replace the production,” Riley said. “Will we replace it with one player? I don’t know. If we do, that’s great. If we don’t, if it’s a little bit more spread out, that’s fine, too.”
Riley identified Jeff Mead, Nick Basquine and Mark Andrews as receivers who could take the next step. Kentucky transfer Jeff Badet also figures to find a spot in the rotation.
“[This group] is a bit deeper and a little bit more talented than we’ve been across the board the previous two years that I’ve been here,” Riley said.
At running back, Riley said there will be several players in the rotation. Abdul Adams is the returning leading rusher, but Rodney Anderson missed substantial time with injuries. The Sooners added freshmen Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks, along with junior college transfer Marcelias Sutton.
“We’re going to have an open mind about it,” Riley said. “It’s as wide open as it can be. We’ll play the best guy, whether it’s one guy getting most of the carries, two guys like last year, or even as much as three or four.”
When a player of Westbrook or Mixon’s caliber departs for the NFL, it’s difficult to find a natural replacement. However, the Sooners believe they could do it by committee without taking a step back.