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How OU plans to replace Ryan Broyles

NORMAN, Okla. -- Replacing a starter is never easy. Replacing the most prolific pass-catcher in FBS history?

That's the challenge Oklahoma faces as it tries to remain in contention for the national championship.

Slot receiver Ryan Broyles, the FBS record-holder with 349 career receptions who also ranks second all-time with 4,586 receiving yards, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Saturday against Texas A&M, leaving an enormous hole in the OU offense.

"For a guy that isn't so big in stature," coach Bob Stoops said, "it's a big presence to replace."

Before the injury, Broyles was putting the finishing touches on a phenomenal college career. This season, Broyles ranks second in the nation with 1,157 receiving yards, fourth with 83 receptions and fifth with 10 touchdown catches.

"He plays everywhere, too" Stoops said. "Don't forget he's leading the Big 12 in punt returns, too. It's hard to replace a guy that doesn't just play in the slot. He plays in all kinds of different formations outside, too."

OU will spend much of its open week figuring how to move on without its explosive weapon of the last three seasons.

"I don't think any one player is going to be Ryan Broyles -- we're foolish if we think that's going to happen," said Jay Norvell, OU's co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. "But collectively, we can do more. That's where our focus needs to be."

To compensate, outside wideouts Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds must become quarterback Landry Jones' new primary receivers. Stills caught the game-winning touchdown pass to beat Florida State, but also has been battling a hamstring injury that limited him against Texas A&M. Reynolds, benched and suspended last season, has come on of late, catching four touchdown passes the last three weeks.

"I have to step up and make more big plays because Ryan made a lot of them," Reynolds said. "Kenny has to take on a bigger role, too. That's pretty obvious."

The Sooners figure to utilize tight end James Hanna, fullback Trey Millard and running back Roy Finch more in the passing game, as well. All three players have good hands.

But in the slot, the Sooners first will give Trey Franks another shot to show he can make an impact. As a starter, Franks caught seven passes for 74 yards in the opener against Tulsa. But after the second game Franks was suspended by Stoops for breaking multiple team rules, and has just two catches since.

OU also could swing Reynolds to the slot and insert Dejuan Miller or Kameel Jackson into the lineup. Miller, a senior, has only 11 catches on the season but did haul in a touchdown pass two weeks ago at Kansas State. Jackson, a true freshman, has yet to receive consistent playing time but has flashed potential all year in practice.

"Obviously it hurts to lose a great player like that," Jones said of Broyles, who has accounted for roughly one-third of Jones' career completions and yards. "But we have a lot of talented guys around here. We're going to move people in and out and see who steps up. Someone is going to step up and play really well in his position."

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at trotterjake@gmail.com. and look for answers every Friday.

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