During the summer months, ESPN.com will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we will analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series will follow the roster numerically through our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.
No. 3 Sterling Shepard, receiver, 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, junior
Impact thus far: Shepard has been outstanding since he stepped on campus. In 2013, he started 12 games, finishing with 51 receptions for 603 yards and seven touchdowns. He added six carries for 44 yards and another score as a sophomore. As a true freshman, Shepard started four games and played in all 13. He had 45 receptions for 621 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.
Impact in 2014: Shepard will be the centerpiece of the passing attack as OU’s No. 1 receiver. He’s extremely competitive and can impact games even when he’s not touching the football thanks to his willingness to block and the defensive attention he will command. He could expand his impact even more as a junior if he adds punt-return duties.
Long-term upside: Shepard has all-Big 12 potential and, if he continues the progress he’s made during his time in the program, he should see his name among the Big 12’s and possibly the nation’s top receivers as early as this season.
Evaluation grade for Shepard: A. The junior arrived in Norman, Oklahoma as an Under Armour All-American, and the Sooners did an excellent job projecting Shepard into their offensive system, particularly his ability to play bigger than his size. His blocking and willingness to go over the middle are overlooked but valuable traits.
Development grade for Shepard: A. He showed he was ready to play as a true freshman, and OU found a way to get him on the field despite having three receivers who eventually got drafted (Kenny Stills, Justin Brown, Jalen Saunders) already on the roster. Four-receiver formations became commonplace -- particularly in the home stretch of the 2012 -- in large part to get Shepard on the field because they knew he could contribute.
Quotable: “Sterling is a consistent, big-play guy that he can make long plays out of short plays. With his speed and quickness -- all those things -- he’s a big-play threat.” — OU coach Bob Stoops.