It's Take Two Tuesday, when we give our opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.
Take 1: Brandon Chatmon — Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant
Grant is arguably the Big 12’s most explosive player. The Red Raiders receiver is a quick, dynamic playmaker who will be one of the focal points of Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive attack this fall.
And, with Texas Tech losing 45 percent of its 2013 receptions in Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, it should be Grant’s time to shine. At 5-foot-6, 160 pounds, Grant isn’t going to overwhelm defenders with his size the way Amaro did, or outmuscle defenders with his bulk and ball skills the way Ward did, but he can be a one-on-one mismatch who is difficult to stop.
The junior receiver seems ready to handle a bigger role in the attack after a strong spring, and he had some of his best games against Tech’s best competition in 2013, recording 29 receptions for 313 yards in a four-week stretch against Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
After making 65 catches last season -- a total that ranks third among the Big 12’s returning pass-catchers -- Grant could approach the 100-reception mark this season with the stability of Davis Webb as the lone guy under center for Texas Tech and a larger piece of the passing offense on his shoulders. That means Grant’s name could be next to Lockett and Goodley when postseason honors are handed out in December.
Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard
Grant is a fabulous, electric talent. He was awesome in the National University Holiday Bowl, when he reeled in two touchdown passes. And he might have been even better during the spring, when he was dominant on several occasions, including Tech’s spring game, when he hauled in five catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
But I’m going with Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard here, who has a longer track record of consistent excellence.
Sure, Grant had better overall numbers last year. But Shepard’s statistical shortfall had more to do with Oklahoma’s inconsistent quarterback play than his ability. Even as the Sooners rotated through three quarterbacks to varying success, Shepard found a way to make an impact. He made the game-clinching touchdown catch in the victory over Notre Dame. He helped set the tone in the victory at Kansas State by snagging the opening-drive touchdown. He caught seven passes for 112 yards in the Sooners’ stunning win at Oklahoma State. And he caught a touchdown in the Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
With Jalen Saunders gone, Shepard will take over as the Sooners’ go-to receiver. And with quarterback Trevor Knight finally asserting himself in the Sugar Bowl, Shepard should have a passer equipped to get him the ball.
The Sooners also have no other returning receiver with more than 18 career receptions, which means Shepard will be targeted early and often. At the same time, there figures to be enough receiving talent surrounding Shepard that defenses won’t be able to completely key on him. Oklahoma’s balance with its rushing attack should also free up Shepard.
Grant might have a higher ceiling because of his athleticism and big-play potential. Grant also could put up bigger numbers in Kliff Kingsbury’s high-flying, pass-first offense.
But outside Lockett and Goodley, there is no more reliable receiver in the league than Shepard, who has been Mr. Dependable since the moment he stepped on Oklahoma’s campus. That is why I'm predicting he will be the one to finish All-Big 12 at receiver alongside stalwarts Lockett and Goodley.