In case you haven’t been paying attention to Big 12 Football for the last month or so, allow me to give you a quick summary. Oklahoma has sprinted out to their best conference record in 12 years, on the back of supernova WR Dede Westbrook. How exactly did Westbrook transform from a mediocre slot receiver to an elite, cold-blooded killer though? Speed. Just take a look at that picture at the top of the page. Westbrook races to the end zone, blazing a trail of helpless defenders. The defenders give chase, but they know they can’t catch him: he’s just that fast.
Before the season, Baker Mayfield, Samaje Perine, and Joe Mixon were pegged as potential playmakers for the Sooners. Many expected Oklahoma to feature a phenomenal offense, but it was a foregone conclusion that the offense would rely heavily on their tenacious running attack. After all, nobody expected Oklahoma to replace Sterling Shepard’s impeccable production. A dip in receiver production was a disappointing yet expected downfall of the Sooners’ offense. Westbrook was labeled as a key role-player, but not necessarily an impact player per se.
Slow out of the Gate
Oklahoma’s disappointing non-conference only affirmed fears of a staggering dip in production through the air. A lack of stand-out production from the receivers played a contributing role in a pair of out-of-conference losses for the Sooners. Many called out Westbrook in particular, citing a lack of leadership among the receivers. A senior, Westbrook was the natural pick to step into that leadership role. Therefore, it wasn’t ridiculous to heap most of the blame onto Westbrook’s slim shoulders. Oklahoma appeared destined for an 8-5 season, highlighted by a severely underperforming receiver corps. That all changed on October 1st.
October 1st was the date of Oklahoma’s road matchup with TCU. Also known as the coming out party for a now fully healthy “TD” Westbrook. Potentially the most dangerous playmaker in Oklahoma’s storied history, Westbrook was given the nickname “TD” because… well, because he scores a lot of touchdowns.
In the first three games of the season, Westbrook recorded 154 yards and 0 touchdowns. In 6 games since, he has 1,012 yards and 12 touchdowns, with a punt return TD to boot. He’s tallied a hefty 18 yards per catch on the season, which is good for third in the nation among receivers with 50+ receptions. This run has surely cemented his place in Oklahoma history.
Best 3-game receiving yard totals in OU history (H/T @MBrooks02):
— Mike Houck (@mhouckOU) October 16, 2016
Dede Westbrook became the first Sooner ever to have multiple receiving TDs in three consecutive games.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 16, 2016
By the way, Westbrook went on to record multiple receiving TD’s in four straight games.
Aside from breaking records, Westbrook was drawing comparisons to another Oklahoma superstar.
Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook is starting to have Russell Westbrook impact.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 8, 2016
His impact has gone beyond the stat line, however. Westbrook has led the Sooners to a 6-0 start in conference, placing them in a great position to win the Big 12 title. Several of his huge performances came in a time of need, in contested, high-scoring victories over Texas, TCU and Texas Tech.
There’s something to be said about the quality of Big 12 defenses, and the pace of play, but when a player goes on a run like this, it’s best to ignore the reason and just appreciate it for its greatness.
Westbrook is on some kind of streak right now, but he can still make history with a strong finish. With three games remaining, the Oklahoma all-time single-season receiving yards record is very much in reach. And who knows, if he continues his performance to close out the season, he could find himself in New York come December.
Can he be Stopped?
But back to the question at hand. Can anybody stop this freak of nature? Nobody in the Big 12 has enough talent on defense to truly stop Westbrook, therefore it’s reasonable to expect his tremendous production to continue through the rest of the season. However, it’s not completely insane to expect his numbers to fall off at some point, due to a great defensive effort, an injury, or both. So can anybody stop Westbrook? maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it.