Ryan Broyles isn’t much of a physical presence.
The Oklahoma receiver is not the tallest player on the field — he is only 5-10 — or the biggest — 188 pounds is small for a football player — and maybe that’s why he doesn’t stand out to fans. But his opponents notice him, and this week the young Texas defensive backs will face their toughest challenge yet: containing Broyles.
“His ability to adjust to the ball in flight is like no one else in the country,” said senior safety Blake Gideon. “Just because you have him covered doesn’t mean he’s not an option.”
Broyles is one of the best receivers in college football, and perhaps one of the greatest in college football history. He was a consensus all-American his junior year and is well on his way to doing so again his senior season.
His junior season shattered the Oklahoma record books. He added 1622 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 school records to his name.
Broyles could have chosen to enter the NFL draft last year, where he most likely would have been a first- or second-round pick, but he decided to come back for his fourth and final year to chase a national title.
“I feel like we have the right pieces next year to compete for a national championship as well,” Broyles said after his decision to come back to school last spring.
Broyles certainly hasn’t slowed down off last year’s pace as the Sooners’ senior-laden team chases a championship. He has already caught 476 yards and six touchdowns through four games; including a four-catch, 109-yard and three-touchdown performance against Ball State on Saturday.
It was on his fourth and final catch on Saturday that Broyles became the Big 12’s all-time leader in receptions with 404, passing Texas Tech’s Taurean Henderson’s mark of 403.
“It was too surreal,” Broyles said of obtaining the record. “I got a little emotional. I had people that never thought I would be in this position in my life. I just kept chipping away, chipping away, and it definitely paid off.”
Broyles is now only 12 receptions away from the all-time NCAA record, held by Perdue’s Taylor Stubblefield. If he manages to stay healthy the rest of the year he will easily eclipse that mark in the next few games.
As a classic slot receiver, he’s not the tallest or the fastest player on the gridiron, but he beats almost every corner that’s thrown at him with precise route running, quick feet and great hands. He is Landry Jones’ favorite target and the two have a connection on the field that is hard to stop, much like the Colt McCoy-Jordan Shipley combo that Texas fans enjoyed so much.
“[Landry and Broyles] definitely spend hours on hours in the springtime and summer working with each other on timing routes,” Texas safety Blake Gideon said.
The Texas defense can’t afford to spend all their time accounting for Broyles. The rest of the Sooner receivers are a threat as well, creating a real catch-22.
“If you spend a lot of time chasing him [Broyles] around, you’ll get murdered by all the other ones they got,” said Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
Broyles is by far the best receiver Texas will face this season. Perhaps the praise of Mack Brown, coach of Oklahoma’s biggest rival, best sums up the quiet greatness of Broyles.
“Ryan is a guy that walked on the scene as a starter,” Brown said. “He could catch and run fast and make plays and he’s done it every year that we’ve played them. I’m really glad he’s a senior. I’ve enjoyed watching him.”