Stoops: WR Shepard should play vs. Baylor
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops expects injured receiver Sterling Shepard to be ready for No. 16 Oklahoma's showdown with No. 10 Baylor on Saturday.
Shepard left last weekend's game against Iowa State with a groin strain after catching a 46-yard pass on the Sooners' first offensive play. Stoops said Monday that it seemed minor when it was checked out Sunday, but the team would monitor the situation throughout the week.
''The best way I'd say it now is we're optimistic that it will heal enough that he'll be full speed by the end of the week,'' Stoops said.
Not having Shepard against Baylor would be a huge blow. He's third nationally with an average of 119.6 yards receiving and has accounted for nearly half of the team's yards in the passing game.
He tied Oklahoma's single-game record with 15 catches, for 197 yards, against Kansas State. He also is the team's punt returner.
Without him, the Sooners amassed 751 yards in a 59-14 win over Iowa State. Trevor Knight passed for 230 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 146 yards and three scores and was picked as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week.
In Shepard's absence, tight end Blake Bell caught two touchdown passes, Michiah Quick had career highs of eight catches for 56 yards and Durron Neal made his first career touchdown reception. Stoops said the other receivers were good, but not great, without Shepard.
''Just OK,'' Stoops said. ''Too many drops. A few busted assignments here or there. I'll say this - to their credit, they played really hard. They competed. They were chasing people downfield trying to block. It's a lot to build on. I'm not ragging on them. It just needs to be better. But I was excited to see them compete the way they did.''
Bell's touchdowns suggested Knight might have learned to trust someone other than Shepard. Four of the 6-foot-6 Bell's 13 catches this season have gone for touchdowns.
''He's a big target,'' Stoops said, ''and particularly in the red zone when you can throw it over the linebacker and feel you're not going to throw it out of the end zone because of his height and his ability to go up and get it. That definitely was the case on one of the touchdowns. He's got great hands, and he continues to improve blocking-wise the more he does it.''
Knight could get some additional help this weekend. Running back Keith Ford, a strong receiver out of the backfield who has missed the past five games, is almost ready to play. He broke his right fibula against Tennessee and has missed the past five games. Stoops considered playing him against Iowa State.
''He was close Saturday,'' Stoops said. ''If he was a lineman he could have probably played. When you've got to make those sudden cuts and all - if they're not at 100 percent, it's not going to work. So we didn't feel he was 100 percent.''
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