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."
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
4 Utah State
11 Florida State
18 Air Force
25 at Cincinnati
2 Texas (in Dallas)
16 Iowa State
23 at Missouri
6 at Texas A&M
13 Texas Tech
20 at Baylor
27 at Oklahoma State
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).
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.
If he's healthy he's a gamebreaker, but he rarely has been.