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December 26, 2011TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Oklahoma Sooners hit the practice field at Corona del Sol High School for the first time on Monday. But this group of Sooners was fewer in numbers than any this season, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
Jay Norvell's receiving corps had been hit the hardest by attrition as Kenny Stills, Trey Franks, Dejuan Miller and Kameel Jackson were the only true receivers on the practice field. They were joined by Joe Powell, a player who has been playing cornerback since making the switch from receiver last season.
Powell was there to fill the void left by receivers Justin McCay and Sheldon McClain, who have left the team to pursue football careers elsewhere.
"Sometimes the best thing for a kid is to move on and go someplace else and start fresh and for them to be happy," said wide receivers coach Norvell, who would not specifically address McCay or McClain specifically.
Bob Stoops also refused to talk about players such as McCay or McClain, along with now former defensive tackle Torrea Peterson, who was not in Arizona and who has decided to transfer.
"Let's talk about who's here. You can guys can do all that," said Stoops when asked about players who had left the team. "You can talk about it all you want. I'm not gonna."
It would seem Stoops is more comfortable with fans and media playing the guessing game in regards to player transfers. But that's okay with Oklahoma's head coach.
He simply chooses not to address the controversy of player defections as the losses continue to mount.
"Accentuate the negative, right?" asked Stoops when he was asked if it would just be easier to address the situation. "That's what you guys would talk about instead of guys that are here playing."
But it's hard to ignore the gaping holes left at the receiver position. Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds are both out for the Insight Bowl. That leaves four scholarship receivers and a converted defensive back.
The Sooners are also using quarterback Kendal Thompson as a receiver in practice just for warm bodies. Thompson isn't making a full-time switch. He's just doing what he can to help the team according to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel.
"Kendal won't play out there. He can't throw right now, it's (an injury) that he's got and that's why he's catching the ball," he said. "He's not even running routes or anything like that. During individual (drills) he's catching the ball."
Is Stoops simply ignoring a problem? Or is it truly about rallying the trips and cleaning house of players who aren't committed to the team?
One thing is certain, running back and receiver are two positions that have changed the explosiveness and effectiveness of this offense. It would stand to reason those shortcomings will have an effect on play-calling, tempo and personnel decisions against the Hawkeyes.
"It's always a concern," said Heupel when asked about the depth issues at receiver. "There's not a lot of depth at any position. But with being thin at multiple positions it forces you to juggle a bunch of different balls in the air. When one of those balls falls out you've got to get back in rhythm."
Oklahoma has had issues with their offensive rhythm since the loss of Ryan Broyles. Landry Jones hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in the last three regular season games. Kenny Stills has also not been as effective without Broyles in the starting lineup.
Now Jones must rely on a true freshmen in Kameel Jackson, a sometimes unreliable pass catcher in Dejuan Miller and a converted defensive back to pick up the slack.
"He just has to continue to try and develop a rapport and chemistry with guys and make sure you're on the same page. It's not easy," said Heuple of Jones' struggles in finding players to step up at wide receiver. "In some respects it's good we have some time here to do that."
But these are wounds that time might not be able to heal.
They run so deep, not even Stoops is willing to talk about them.