NCF Nation: Quentin Chaney
There’s a natural tendency to overlook Dejuan Miller when considering Oklahoma’s speediest wide receivers.
|Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images|
|Oklahoma receiver Dejuan Miller scored his first touchdown against Kansas State.|
That is, until Miller lines up and actually runs a few routes.
“When people look at me, they automatically think I’m some kind of possession receiver,” Miller said. “But I ran track in high school. I can get out and run when I have to.”
That speed might be a stunner to some defenders. But it’s a natural advantage that Miller likes to spring on unsuspecting opponents.
“It’s fun and I love it,” Miller said. “When they see somebody 6-4 and 224 pounds they think I can just catch the ball. But it’s nice to surprise and shock them sometimes when I run.”
Earlier this season, teammates were mesmerized by his combination of size and speed. Several Oklahoma defensive backs compared him to NFL superstar Larry Fitzgerald because of his bountiful natural gifts.
But despite those tools and a strong effort in fall camp, Miller has had to wait his turn to work his way into Oklahoma’s receiving rotation.
“There was a frustrating point,” Miller said. “It was kind of like climbing a mountain and trying to stay positive every day and have positive outlook. I knew things would fall into place. I just needed my chance to shine and get a chance to play.”
That opportunity finally arrived last week when he produced a career-best nine receptions for 93 yards to help spark the Sooners’ victory over Kansas State.
His first catch was a 23-yard touchdown grab in which he broke several tackles. It was the first touchdown of his career.
Miller also produced three key third-down receptions on drives that led to Oklahoma touchdowns against the Wildcats.
“I feel like this was kind of my coming-out party, a chance to show what I could do,” Miller said. "It was huge because I’ve been waiting for a breakout game like that. I just wanted to showcase what I could do and be a playmaker for us.”
That development provides a capable No. 2 threat behind the speedy Ryan Broyles, who leads the nation with 10 touchdown receptions. The sophomore duo has Oklahoma fans excited about the future.
“Me and Ryan bring something different to the table,” Miller said. “He’s a natural playmaker and I think I bring more of a physical standpoint. I bring the physical and he brings flair and finesse. We kind of feed off each other.”
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones' connection with Miller in Oklahoma’s offense also appears to have grown in the last several weeks. Miller is listed as a first-string receiver on the Sooners' depth chart heading into Saturday's game at Nebraska.
"I always had confidence in him," Jones told the Tulsa World. "I've seen what he does in practice and what he's done since spring. He's a hard-working kid. He's going to make every play for you."
Miller was one of the three top wide receivers who chose the Sooners in the 2008 recruiting class along with Josh Jarboe and Jameel Owens. But Jarboe was dismissed from the Oklahoma squad two days before practice began last season when an expletive-laced rap video he had crafted ended up on the Internet.
And neither Miller nor Owens got much playing time last season as the Sooners preferred to use senior receivers like Manny Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney.
“I was in kind of a rough situation last year because there were a lot of older guys in front of me,” Miller said. “I had to wait on my turn and be patient. I learned patience is a virtue.”
Family members in the Oklahoma City area were the major reason why Miller chose to leave his hometown of Metuchen, N.J., for the Oklahoma program. Among the other schools he considered included Penn State, Florida, Michigan, Boston College and Cincinnati.
But after the first big game of his career, Miller is happy he chose to come to Oklahoma -- even if he had to wait for his chance to play.
"I knew things eventually would get better,” Miller said. “It might be a rocky road, but I wanted to stick with it. I always had a good attitude because I knew it was just a matter of time before my chance would come along.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thinks that Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford has come back noticeably improved for his junior season.
Bradford broke Oklahoma single-season records with 50 touchdown passes and 4,720 passing yards last season, but he appears to have more confidence and a better deep arm after the first week of Oklahoma's practices.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Sam Bradford has added 10 pounds on his frame since last season.|
"He's strong, he's quicker and the ball comes out that much faster," Stoops said. "With another year of experience out on the field, he'll think much quicker, too."
Bradford appears noticeably bigger after adding 10 pounds of muscle since the end of last year.
"Sam is getting better each and every day," senior wide receiver Adron Tennell said. "Throwing the ball, rolling out of the pocket, he's done it all. You can tell he's better than before."Stoops said there's little separation between his backups who are playing behind Bradford at quarterback.
"Those guys are still splitting their reps," Stoops said. "We keep snapping the ball and giving them experience. They are working well together and doing a nice job."
- Sophomore defensive back Jamell Fleming has been hobbled by a back injury and sophomore defensive back Desmond Jackson "has an issue with academic misconduct" that he's working through, Stoops said.
- Oklahoma's special teams have looked strong in recent practices. Kicker Jimmy Stevens showed improved range at Thursday's open practice with field goals of 50 and 53 yards.
Stevens' length is a big development for the Sooners. His longest kick last season was 42 yards and he shanked five extra points.
Stoops playfully chided about 300 fans who attended the Sooners' open workout Thursday night that they weren't cheering loud enough for Stevens' big kicks.
"They only cheer when there's an offensive play," Stoops said. "When the defense intercepts the ball they are quiet over there or when the kicker gets a nice 53-yard field goal."
- One of the early revelations of fall practice has been wide receiver/punter Cameron Kenney, a transfer from Garden City Community College.
Kenney has jumped into the mix at wide receiver and also is challenging for the punting position against Tress Way. It's a weird combination of a speedy wide receiver who also is a strong punter.
"He's pretty good," Stoops said. "He's shows a lot of signs (as a receiver), but he needs to be more consistent, but he's doing a lot of good things.
"He's punted well, too. It's very rare because you don't see a lot of wide receivers who can punt the ball 40 yards like he can."
Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell said that Kenney reminds him of former Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias because of his combination of size and strength.
"It's because of his quickness, his way of getting in and out of plays and the fact he's very strong to the ball," Norvell said. "Cameron can also run well after the catch. He's a hard worker and the guys who work the hardest get better faster."
- Despite the loss of key playmakers like Iglesias, Manny Johnson and Quentin Chaney from last season, Norvell thinks his current group has the chance to be better than last year's productive group.
"I think we're more athletic and explosive than we were last year," Norvell said. "Whether that will correlate into productiveness, I'm not sure. But we have athletes and in that respect we probably have more deep threats than we did last year."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Considering all of the key receivers that left Oklahoma's team after last season, it's understandable why some aren't sold on the Sooners' returning talent at the position.
Leading returning receiver Ryan Broyles doesn't mind that at all. In fact, Broyles actually likes that many are considering his receiving corps as one of the Sooners' biggest positional question marks.
|Stephen Brashear/Icon SMI|
|Ryan Broyles will be one of quarterback Sam Bradford's go-to guys in 2009.|
"We've all been doubted around here before," Broyles said. "We just want to rise to the occasion and show what we can do when we get the chance."
The Sooners must replace playmakers Manuel Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney from last season. That trio combined to produce 145 receptions, 2,368 yards and 21 touchdowns to spark an explosive passing game that catapulted Sam Bradford to the Heisman Trophy.
Their departure is expected to hamstring the Sooners' vertical passing game in Bradford's third season as a starter. But it's also bolstered the confidence of several players who are figuring that it's now their time to shine.
No player has been more vociferous this spring as 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver Adron Tennell, a senior who is poised to emerge as one of the Sooners' likely deep threats.
"I feel like I'm back in high school. I'm unstoppable and nobody can touch me," said Tennell, who has produced only 16 catches in the first three seasons at Oklahoma after struggling with a knee injury and talented teammates in front of him.
Tennell, known as "Pooh" by his relatives since childhood, arrived at Oklahoma as the most-heralded receiving recruit in recent history. One scouting service had him ranked as the third-highest recruit in the 2006 recruiting class, behind only Florida's Percy Harvin and USC's Vidal Hazelton.
But Tennell's development was stunted after he injured his knee on special teams late in his sophomore season against Texas Tech. The injury caused him to miss all of winter conditioning and spring practice before last season.
As the other players developed, Tennell's playing time diminished. He produced only nine catches for 68 yards last season.
"Being behind all of those guys who were here before me, I was hoping I'd get to play," Tennell said. "But when I didn't, I got anxious about having to sit and watch. Now, I'm trying to shine when I get my chance."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Oklahoma came into the Big 12 title game needing to make a statement to prove their legitimacy as the South Division title-game participants.
After one half, the Sooners' resounding 38-7 lead shows that they not only belong in Kansas City, but likely in Miami for the BCS title game as well.
The Sooners have scored on all but one first-half possession as they have manhandled the Tigers from the start. They've already piled up 359 yards on 54 first-half plays, averaging 6.6 yards per snap.
It's that high-powered offense that has enabled them to score 678 points for the season, setting a modern-day NCAA record.
Oklahoma's defense has been fearsome, notching two sacks and forcing two turnovers. Cornerback Brian Jackson has notched a fumble recovery and an interception that set up scoring drives.
How dominant has it been? Leading Oklahoma rusher DeMarco Murray sprained his ankle on the opening kickoff and hasn't played. And he's hardly been missed as the Sooners have piled up 119 rushing yards.
The onslaught could best be seen late in the first half. After Chase Daniel was tackled with seven seconds left, the Tigers decided to meekly let the rest of the clock tick away despite having the ball on the Sooners side of the 50.
Oklahoma scored 28 points in the second quarter and blew the game open. The Tigers look beaten and like they want to go sit where it's warm instead of coming out for the second half.
Here are some items of interest I've noticed in watching the first half.
- The South Division has dominated the Big 12 in the last several years and it's continuing tonight with Oklahoma's fast start. Including the last four years and tonight's first half, the South Division teams have outscored the North, 202-37.
- The Sooners have taken advantage of their huge size edge on the left side, running behind clearing blocks by massive left tackle Phil Loadholt and Outland finalist Duke Robinson for success throughout the first half.
- The Sooners became the first team in Big 12 history with a pair of 1,000-yard backs. Murray came into the game with 1,002 yards. And Brown has joined him with 83 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, giving him 1,071 for the season.
- Missouri's secondary struggled throughout the season. And the loss of starting cornerback Castine Bridges appears to have worsened the condition. The Tigers have been susceptible to slants as they've been outclassed by Oklahoma's more physical and quicker collection of receivers. Ryan Broyles has six catches, Juaquin Iglesias has four and Quentin Chaney has two. And massive tight end Jermaine Gresham has run free through the secondary with six receptions for 59 yards.
- The game has been chippy in the early going. Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander and Missouri tackle Elvis Fisher both were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after tangling in the first quarter.
Veteran Missouri wide receiver Tommy Saunders was flagged for taunting after the Tigers' touchdown, setting up good field position that the Sooners turned into a 53-yard touchdown drive. And Iglesias was flagged for taunting after his own touchdown later in the second quarter.
It prompted referee Randy Christal to call the teams together with about 12 minutes to go in the half, telling them to cool the extra energy.
- Sam Bradford's Heisman candidacy has never looked stronger. Despite playing with an injured left thumb immobilized by a splint, Bradford has completed 22 of 31 yards for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. - It took awhile for Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford to get into a groove in the first half.
But once he did, he proved why he's one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Bradford directed a pair of 14-play scoring drives to finish the half, directing the Sooners to a 21-13 halftime advantage over Oklahoma State.
The sophomore quarterback completed 8 of 11 for 82 yards on the final drive, capping it with a 4-yard dart to athletic tight end Jermaine Gresham with 13 seconds left in the half. Gresham made four catches on the drive, including two acrobatic ones where he tipped the ball to himself.
It capped a 171-yard first-half effort that upped Bradford's season passing total to 3,881, a new Oklahoma single-season record. The previous best was Josh Heupel's 3,850 in 1999.
Earlier, Bradford had struggled through his worst beginning of the season, misfiring on his first four passes and five of his first nine attempts in the first quarter. The Cowboys were mixing pass coverages as the Sooners dropped or had a hand on Bradford's first three incompletions.
And the Sooners showed their versatility on an earlier scoring drive with a 14-play, 79-yard drive that included seven runs and seven passes. The Sooners overcome second-and-10, second-and-12 and second-and-18 plays in that scoring drive as it converted four third-down plays in a punishing performance that seemed to wear out the Oklahoma State defense.
It's enough to boost the Sooners within 30 minutes of forcing a historic three-way tie for the South Division championship. Texas Tech and Texas have already earned a share of the title with victories earlier this weekend.
Here are some other items of interest I've noticed.
- So much for any worries about Oklahoma State tailback Kendall Hunter's injured quadricep muscle. Hunter snagged a 23-yard TD reception to account for the Cowboys' only touchdown and also added a game-high 59 rushing yards. He's running hard and has needed only one break.
- The only injury of note in the first half was Oklahoma nose guard Adrian Taylor who was dinged after he was hit by Oklahoma middle linebacker Austin Box late in the first quarter.
- Oklahoma has been plagued with some drops in the first half, with at least four incompletions where receivers had a hand on the ball. But Gresham's athleticism with two grabs on balls he tipped to himself made up for those struggles.
- The crowd doesn't appear to be nearly as sparse as expected as only a few seats in the upper corners are empty. And these Oklahoma State became a factor early. It helped cause a false start on Oklahoma's first play for scrimmage that led to a three-and-out on Oklahoma's first possession. It was only the second time that the Sooners had failed to score on their opening possession this season.
- Oklahoma is taking advantage of a massive size advantage by running heavily towards its left side that includes 350-pound left tackle Phil Loadholt and 330-pound Duke Robinson.
- The Cowboys are showing a lot of new wrinkles, using Robinson more as a rushing threat than in most of the season. His serpentine 11-yard scramble showed his athleticism as he eluded tacklers for eight seconds of game action. When he's running like that, Robinson might be the conference's most athletic quarterback.
- Oklahoma State kicker Dan Bailey has drilled a pair of field goals, extending his streak to nine-straight kicks. Bailey's 44-yard field goal that pulled the Cowboys within 14-13 was the longest kick of his career. He previously had missed all four attempts in his career of longer than 40 yards.
- Oklahoma's defensive front did a better job after Oklahoma State had taken the lead on the touchdown pass to Hunter. After that play, Robinson did not complete another pass in the first half.
- The explosive Oklahoma offensive play was held in check with only two plays of 20 yards or more - a 21-yard pass from Bradford to Quentin Chaney and DeMarco Murray's 20-yard TD run to cap Oklahoma's second drive.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's hard to believe the glare of the national television spotlight that will be fixed to Lubbock this weekend.
"The Hub City" has never received this much national attention -- even back in the days when Buddy Holly was streaking across the firmament during his short-lived, star-crossed career as a rock icon.
Today, it's Mike Leach and Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy and Mack Brown who are commanding most of the attention. It's continuing a season-long tradition that has enabled Texas to become even more of a national darling than before in terms of television appeal, according to the Austin American-Statesman's Suzanne Halliburton.
Texas Tech fans are aiming to beat the record crowd to attend "College GameDay" before Saturday's game against Texas. The previous record crowd of 17,000, was set earlier at Nebraska, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
Lack of available flights are sending some fans and reporters flying into Amarillo or Midland -- both about a two-hour drive away -- to arrive for the game. The Avalanche-Journal reported that tickets on eBay are going for as much as $1,000 apiece.
Restaurants are stocking up with extra cold beverages and trimming beef to get ready for the crowds expected to flock before and after the game. It could be the biggest single weekend of tourism-related spending in Lubbock history.
And it should be quite a sight to experience. We can only hope the game lives up to its hype.
Until then, here are some stories from across the Big 12 for your perusal this lunchtime.
- Texas quarterback Colt McCoy grew up in nearby Tuscola, played his last high school game in Lubbock and still finds many of his high school friends now are attending Texas Tech. McCoy says he can't wait to get back to his home area to play Saturday night, according to Adam Zuvanich of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle writes about the North Division's wide-open title race.
- Nebraska I-back Marlon Lucky finally is living up to the preseason promise that had him considered among the Big 12's best backs, Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald writes.
- Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell are the Big 12's two finalists for the Draddy Award. Both are among 15 National Football Foundation 2008 Scholar-Athlete Award winners, which comes with an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship.
- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has come full-circle by returning back to college coaching, according to the Denver Post's Tom Kensler.
- Guerin Emig of The Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma wide receiver Quentin Chaney is one of the best utility players produced during the Bob Stoops coaching era.