- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Kenny Stills has proved he could be a No. 1 wide receiver for most college football teams. Oklahoma just isn't one of them.
But that's only because Stills lines up next to Ryan Broyles, the most prolific receiver in OU history, who needs just 13 more receptions to break the NCAA career record of 316.
Together, Stills and Broyles form one of the top receiving tandems in the nation. Perhaps the best.
"We say that every day in practice," said Oklahoma safety Aaron Colvin. "Those two guys are unbelievable."
Usually out of the slot, Broyles gashes opponents by finding open spaces underneath coverage. Stills, the fastest player on the team, makes defenses pay downfield.
"It's pick your poison," said Jay Norvell, OU's co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach.
Florida State found that out last month during the Sooners' game-winning scoring drive in the fourth quarter in Tallahassee. On a critical third-and-12, quarterback Landry Jones found Broyles across the middle for a first down to keep the drive alive. On the following play, Stills beat Greg Reid to the end zone, then came back on Jones' underthrown ball to secure the 37-yard touchdown catch and give OU the lead for good.
"He makes the competitive plays," Broyles said of his wingman, who led the Sooners with seven catches, 125 yards and the touchdown in the 23-13 victory over the Seminoles. "Considering his age, he has a lot of promise."
Broyles showed similar promise as a young player. On OU's record-setting offense of 2008, he finished with 46 receptions, 687 receiving yards and six touchdowns as Sam Bradford's third receiver. As the No. 1 receiving option in the last three seasons, Broyles has averaged better than eight catches a game.
"He's really special. The guy is just amazing," coach Bob Stoops said. "His body control, his footwork. His hands are always so sure. The guy is just a great player."
Stills is on his way there. In 2010, he broke Broyles' school record for freshman receiving yards in a season during the Big 12 championship and was the catalyst to OU's comeback from an early 17-0 deficit. With Nebraska's talented secondary smothering Broyles underneath and the rest of the Sooners offense sputtering, Stills broke open on a deep post for a 49-yard touchdown catch, igniting the rally.
"Kenny is a big-play player," Norvell said. "He's shown he can change the game in a single play."
Stills credits much of his development to Broyles, who considered leaving early for the NFL, but decided to return to school.
"I'm so grateful Ryan came back," Stills said. "I really wasn't ready to step into that leadership role yet," a position Broyles has filled admirably. Especially in the mentoring of Stills and OU's other young receivers.
Like Stills, who had an offseason DUI and was suspended for the opener against Tulsa, Broyles ran into trouble his first year on campus and was suspended the entire season for stealing gasoline from a local gas station. Now a fifth-year senior, Broyles was voted a team captain, rarely goes out at night and got engaged to be married just last week. He and Stills also attend church together almost every Sunday.
"Ryan has influenced Kenny so much," Norvell said. "In his maturity, the off-the-field stuff, how to practice, how to watch film, how to study, how to see coverages."
Now, coverages are gasping to account for the both of them.
"Ryan does his thing every week," Jones said. "Everyone knew about Kenny's speed; now he's showing he's more of an all-around receiver making a lot of different plays.
"Having both of those guys together is just huge."
Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation.