NORMAN, Okla. — Ryan Broyles took a glance at Oklahoma’s record book before the season, checking out what some of the best receivers to play for the Sooners had been able to do.
By the time he’s done playing at Texas A&M (5-3, 2-2 Big 12) on Saturday night, he could own two more receiving records — most career receptions and most touchdown catches. And by the time the season is over, he could hold every significant receiving record for No. 11 Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1).
“I didn’t really think that at all. I just wanted to make sure that I knew where I was in the standings,” Broyles said. “It’s one of those things I just work for, from the offseason to now.”
Broyles needs only nine catches to break the career record of 221 by current St. Louis Rams receiver Mark Clayton. He’s also three TDs away from surpassing Clayton’s mark of 31 scores between 2001 and 2004.
He leads the nation with 9.8 catches per game and could go past his season record of 89 catches next week against Texas Tech — if he doesn’t grab a dozen passes against the Aggies. He’s on pace to pass Clayton’s career record of 3,241 yards receiving by the end of the regular season — and in just three seasons instead of four.
Broyles said what drives him is “just wanting to be the best.”
“I compete against the guys out there, the other receivers (on the team), compete against guys around the nation,” he said. “Every time I go out there on the field on game day, I just want to do something special.”
That has never been a problem.
Broyles dazzled from the first time he played a game for the Sooners in his hometown. He set a freshman record with 141 yards receiving in his debut and had a 27-yard catch and a 31-yard score on the first drive. He became a reliable target for Sam Bradford in the QB’s 2008 Heisman Trophy season, a weapon on punt returns and eventually the go-to guy for Landry Jones when the other stars from Oklahoma’s run to the BCS title game moved on to the NFL or got hurt.
“Some of the catches that he makes, it’s pretty impressive to see him make those plays when he jumps over a guy and hops in front of them,” Jones said. “He just never seems to drop really too many balls during practice and even in games. It’s nice to have a guy like that.”
Jones and Broyles most frequently hurt defenses with quick screen passes along the line of scrimmage, allowing Broyles to use his speed and shiftiness to pick up yards. Last game, Colorado’s defenders tried to squeeze Broyles at the line and he burned them deep for a school-record 208 yards receiving and three touchdowns in only three quarters.
He started out with a 16-yard TD catch, which seemed routine when he made an over-the-shoulder grab and raced the final 50 yards for an 81-yard touchdown that was the longest of his career. He later added a 64-yard TD on a post pattern.
“He’s a great route-runner, he’s got great quickness and speed and he’s got incredible hands,” coach Bob Stoops said, “so he has everything you need.”
Broyles has said he’ll wait until after the season to decide whether he wants to make an early jump to the NFL or stick around for another year. At 5-foot-11, he lacks the size it often takes to be an early pick, but he believes he can still thrive at the next level.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s watched Wes Welker, a fellow Oklahoman and Big 12 alumnus, develop into one of the league’s most prolific receivers with the New England Patriots.
“There’s a lot of small guys playing in the slot, and I feel like the NFL’s looking at smaller guys now,” Broyles said. “As for me, I don’t know where I see myself going or anything like that, but I feel like I could fit in and go make plays.”
Since he made his immediate splash, Broyles believes he has matured and developed a skill set that can bring him success at the next level. He has learned how to read defenses and knows when to expect the ball and how to create an opening.
“You’ve got to have something special about you,” Broyles said. “You can’t have too many weaknesses, being a smaller guy, and I work on that all the time. That’s one of those things that I have to prepare myself for and just be the best that I can be.”
For now, he’s quickly cementing his place as the top receiver at a school that wasn’t known much for passing the ball until Stoops took over in 1999. In the past six years, the Sooners have had seven receivers drafted, with the record-setting Clayton the only one to go in the first round.
“I always thought Mark Clayton was pretty special, and Ryan’s right there with him,” Stoops said. “In my eyes, they’re very similar-type guys, and Ryan continues to play at that caliber.”