How Deion Burks Could Provide Oklahoma a Refreshing Offensive Presence

The Sooners newcomer averaged almost 35 yards per catch on five hauls — and two touchdowns — in April's Spring Game.
Oklahoma's Deion Burks catches a pass for a touchdown during a University of Oklahoma (OU) Sooners spring football game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, April 20, 2024.
Oklahoma's Deion Burks catches a pass for a touchdown during a University of Oklahoma (OU) Sooners spring football game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, April 20, 2024. / BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY
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NORMAN — Deion Burks was lured to Norman with the promise of playing Drake Stoops’ old position. The 5-foot-9 Purdue transfer could become a greater vertical threat than his predecessor was.

“Coming in, I just knew I pretty much wanted to play the slot position,” Burks said after a spring practice on April 12. “Honestly, what caught my eyes was what Drake Stoops did in this spot, man. He’s a great athlete, man, he gets open in space. I’m like, ‘Man, if I can replicate my game after him and just pick up after his game and do what he did, I feel like that could be a great thing to see.”

The former Boilermaker turned heads when he caught five passes for 174 yards — an average of 34.8 yards per haul — and two touchdowns in the Red-White Spring Game on April 22. Early in the first quarter, Burks burst past the white team’s secondary on a seam and climbed to meet a 65-yard connection from sophomore QB1 Jackson Arnold in stride as he raced to the end zone.

“Deion is a special player,” Arnold said after the game. “He’s one of the fastest kids I’ve thrown to. He knows how to get open, great route runner. He showed that ability today and I’m proud of him.”

“A lot of people go deep. It’s great that I got to put it on film. I hope to definitely keep playing that role of going deep,” Burks said.

It’s not just the ability to stretch the field that will help Burks succeed with the Sooners this year. His route-running and ability to create separation in short-yardage situations is equally impressive.

“The ability to throw both underneath and deep, your coverages are affected,” head coach Brent Venables said after the spring game. “Who you’re matching things up with, whether it’s a quarter safety or a spin-down safety or it’s additional corner or whoever that additional defender is — your star, your fifth DB. . . It makes the matchups a little more difficult when you’ve got somebody [Burks] that can challenge you vertically as well as underneath.”

Stoops, who finished his career as a top-15 all-time Sooner in receiving yards and recently signed as an undrafted free agent to the Los Angeles Rams, was a savant when it came to finding open field and was undoubtedly one of the best interior receivers to come through Norman in the past decade. He was named an All-Big 12 First-Team selection after catching 84 passes for 962 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“Again, Drake was a high-producing receiver. It didn’t matter what you asked that guy to do, whether that was beat someone on an over route, get open on an underneath crosser, something like that,” Venables said. “Drake would make all the competitive plays. We’ll need to continue to have that kind of production out of that position in order for us to be successful systematically.”

Burks caught 47 passes for 629 yards and seven touchdowns last year at Purdue. The creativity in Seth Littrell’s offense could make Burks one of the top-producing receivers in the SEC this year.

“I honestly love the scheme here. Coach Seth Littrell, he does a great thing with this team. Just with all the receivers and trying to improve our running game,” Burks said. “Just everything like that, I love the scheme more than when I was at Purdue.”

The first step to success as a receiver is chemistry with your quarterback. So far, it seems Arnold and Burks have made a good impression on each other.

“It’s all JA pretty much, just wanting to watch film. Saying where the spot’s at, where the defense is probably gonna be open and just finding green grass. It’s pretty much what we’re watching on film, trying to put it on tape. It’s been a great thing to see,” Burks said.

“It’s hard to say because I’ve never been like that with any other receiver before,” Arnold said, asked how he has built such a connection with Burks in such a short time. “This is my second spring and I’ve never had time to get with guy like that before. Deion is a great player and this connection came pretty fast. First couple weeks of spring I was throwing touchdowns to him and he was playing his butt off.”


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Bryce McKinnis

BRYCE MCKINNIS

Bryce is a contributor for AllSooners and has been featured in several publications, including the Associated Press, the Tulsa World and the Norman Transcript. A Tishomingo native, Bryce’s sports writing career began at 17 years old when he filed his first story for the Daily Ardmoreite. As a student at the University of Central Oklahoma, he worked on several award-winning projects, including The Vista’s coverage of the 2021 UCO cheer hazing scandal. After graduating in 2021, Bryce took his first job covering University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University sports for the Tulsa World before accepting a role as managing editor of VYPE Magazine in 2022. - UCO Mass Communications/Sports Feature (2019) - UCO Mass Communications/Investigative Reporting (2021) - UCO College of Liberal Arts/Academic presentation, presidential politics and ideology (2021) - OBEA/Multimedia reporting (2021) - Beat Writer, The Tulsa World (2021-2022) - Managing Editor, VYPE Magazine (2022-2023)