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12 OKLAHOMA

Aug. 16, 2010
Aug. 16, 2010

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Aug. 16, 2010

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12 OKLAHOMA

Last year's tumble has toughened the Sooners for 2010

In 2009, when injuries ended the seasons of quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham, wideout Ryan Broyles became the team's go-to guy. He ranked 11th in the country in receiving yards per game (93.3) and third in punt returns (15.9) in a breakout sophomore season. What's more, he put up many of those numbers while playing with a bum left shoulder blade, which caused him to miss almost two games. "Nothing really injures me," says Broyles, now a junior. "I'm a competitor. I play through those things."

This is an article from the Aug. 16, 2010 issue

"Those things" were all too numerous for the Sooners during a season that they'd rather forget. The injuries to Bradford and Gresham, as well as to the offensive and defensive lines, derailed a year in which they were expected to be on the short list of national title contenders. Oklahoma lost five games for the first time since 1999, coach Bob Stoops's inaugural season in Norman.

There was, however, a silver lining. "We gained experience that you didn't want at the time," Stoops says. "That will definitely make us a better and stronger team coming into this year."

Perhaps no player benefited more from last year's experience than Broyles. A two-way star at Norman High, just one mile from the Oklahoma campus, he was redshirted as a freshman in 2007 (after pleading no contest to stealing gas from a convenience store). The next season he started nine games but was fourth on the team in receiving yards (687) and receiving TDs (six). Last year he made a significant jump forward while also helping quarterback Landry Jones (3,198 passing yards, 26 TDs) ease into the starter's role after Bradford's injury.

This fall a bigger Broyles, who added 10 pounds of muscle to his 5' 11" frame (he's now 185 pounds), should play an even larger role in the offense as the team's only proven playmaker on the outside. Stoops says that the team's other receivers "need to pick it up and kind of try and play the way [Broyles] does."

Broyles has embraced this leadership role, mentoring the younger receivers in the off-season. "It's all part of becoming a complete player," he says. "As long as I continue to make good decisions on and off the field, I feel like I'm somebody they can look up to."

Fast Facts

CONFERENCE BIG 12

COACH Bob Stoops (12th year)

2009 RECORD 8--5 (5--3 in Big 12)

FINAL AP RANK NR

RETURNING STARTERS 10

Offense 5, Defense 5

Schedule

SEPTEMBER

4 Utah State

11 Florida State

18 Air Force

25 at Cincinnati

OCTOBER

2 Texas (in Dallas)

16 Iowa State

23 at Missouri

30 Colorado

NOVEMBER

6 at Texas A&M

13 Texas Tech

20 at Baylor

27 at Oklahoma State

Key Players

QUINTON CARTER

S, Senior

A fusion of strength (345-pound bench press) and hops (37-inch vertical), Carter excelled in his first year starting at free safety (88 tackles).

TRAVIS LEWIS

LB, Junior

A sideline-to-sideline playmaker, he led the team in tackles in '08 and '09 and is one of the Big 12's top defenders.

DEMARCO MURRAY

RB, Senior

If he's healthy he's a gamebreaker, but he rarely has been.

PHOTOSIMON BRUTY (BROYLES)After a breakout sophomore year, Broyles has added 10 pounds of muscle and will again be the main outside threat.PHOTOJAMES D. SMITH/ICON SMI