Oklahoma wide receiver Theo Wease will miss at least the first half of the 2021 season with a lower-body injury he suffered in practice, head coach Lincoln Riley said following a 40-35 win over Tulane on Saturday. Wease, a former 5-star recruit, became one of quarterback Spencer Rattler's favorite targets in a breakout 2020 season. The Allen High School (TX) product caught 37 passes for 530 yards receiving and four touchdowns to finish second among receivers on the team in most major categories.
With Wease out, Rattler completed passes to seven different receivers as part of a 304-yard performance in the narrow win over the Green Wave. Sophomore Marvin Mims led all wideouts with 117 yards receiving on five catches. Redshirt sophomore Jadon Haselwood finished second on the team with 47 yards receiving.
Wease's injury is a substantial blow to the Sooners' offense, which will have to adjust without him for several games. Here's what that injury means for the College Football Playoff hopefuls.
What Wease brings to the offense
The 2019 receiver class was billed as potentially a historic one for Oklahoma with two 5-star wideouts (Wease and Haselwood), another top-75 prospect (Trejan Bridges) and a top-150 tight end in Austin Stogner. In his second season, the big-bodied Wease separated himself as one of the best receivers on the roster.
While Mims will once again be one of the nation's top options, Wease's absence is a major hit. He was set to take on an even bigger role next to second-year quarterback Spencer Rattler. The junior led all Sooners wide receivers with more than 300 snaps, 88 percent of which came while lined up outside, per Pro Football Focus. The only other receiver on the team with more than 100 snaps lined out wide at receiver is Mims, who split time in each spot. Wease also led all returning receivers with 6.0 yards after catch per reception.
Wease's rise ultimately pushed fellow top receiver Charleston Rambo out the door, where he found a landing spot next to quarterback D'Eriq King at Miami. With Wease out, Mims will likely shift over to playing outside receiver on a more consistent basis.
Oklahoma has recruited quality depth
Oklahoma has recruited the receiver position exceptionally well over the past several years. Haselwood ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the nation in 2019, per 247Sports Composite, while incoming receivers Mario Williams and Cody Jackson rank No. 43 and No. 110, respectively. But while the recruiting rankings have been solid, none of the high school recruits have meaningful experience.
The injury is just the latest knock to an Oklahoma roster hoping to push for the College Football Playoff. Bridges, along with running backs Seth McGowan and Mikey Henderson, was removed from the team over the offseason for felony robbery, assault and battery charges. Running back Marcus Major was reportedly ruled ineligible during the preseason, while LSU transfer Kevontre Bradford re-entered the transfer portal.
Lincoln Riley is one of the top offensive minds in college football, but there are only so many losses a team can withstand and still compete for a national championship.
Which players will step up?
With Wease likely sidelined, all eyes turn to Arkansas transfer Michael Woods. The Magnolia (TX) product caught 32 passes for 619 yards and five touchdowns in a revamped offense under first-year head coach Sam Pittman before heading west. At 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, he has a bigger frame than Mims. He caught four passes for 36 yards against Tulane.
Additionally, the Sooners need to get quality production out Haselwood. He was limited to just four receptions in 2020 because of injuries, but caught 19 passes in a support role as a true freshman. Incoming recruits Williams, Jackson and Jalil Farooq will all get a chance to earn playing time.
Drake Stoops, son of Sooners head coaching legend Bob Stoops, earned a scholarship after catching 15 passes for 219 yards and two scores in 2020. He provides a capable slot option in a pinch, but missed the season opener.