Why do sophomore wide receiver Sterling Shepard’s contributions to last year’s football team come as a surprise? I mean, the kid was rated the No. 1 player in Oklahoma coming out of high school, according to Rivals.com and ESPN.com.

Perhaps he hid in the gaping shadow that five-star recruit and fellow freshman wide receiver Trey Metoyer had following him all season?

Or possibly marquee Penn State transfer Justin Brown stole the media attention when he parted from Happy Valley in the wake of the Sandusky scandal?

Whatever the case may be, don’t be surprised this season. Shepard will do big things.

Contributing right away as a freshman, Shepard played in all 13 games and started four of them. He recorded 45 receptions for 621 yards, the third and fourth-highest all-time among OU freshmen, respectively.

Looking to build off last year’s success, Shepard will be a standout — not a surprise — this year.

This season, Shepard will join a cast of receivers that earned valuable experience last year. That experience will help Shepard this year, as the Sooners lost two key assets last season — Kenny Stills to the NFL and Brown to graduation.

However, Shepard’s experience won’t benefit just him.

Cue the quarterback controversy.

The experience Shepard gained with former OU quarterback Landry Jones last season was critical in the maturation of not just his game, but it will help OU’s quarterback as well — whomever that may be.

Playing off the No. 1 receiver this year, senior Jalen Saunders, Shepard will be the abusive tail end of a quick one-two punch.

Look for Shepard to make an impact on the 2013 campaign quickly because he possesses Broyles-like ability with his speed and quickness.

Shepard has what some raw-potential guys do not: The ability to make the big play in the big game.

Against Kansas State last year, which also was his first career start, Shepard notched the best game of his season. He hauled in seven receptions for 108 yards and recorded his first career touchdown against the Wildcats.

Another quality that makes Shepard so deceptively dangerous is his versatility. For the up-tempo Josh Heupel offense, he could be a key utility guy when a quick five or 10 yards are needed. Just like what Broyles used to do in Norman.

However, Shepard could become a deep threat at any moment, also, burning through the secondary for six points. Just like Broyles did.

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Sam Hoffman is a journalism junior.

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