Nic Anderson is charting OU’s most uncommon receiving season ever

Nic Anderson is charting OU’s most uncommon receiving season ever

Never in the 129-year history of the Sooners’ football program has OU seen a pass catcher open a season quite like Anderson has in 2023.

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

| Oct 26, 2023, 11:00am CDT

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

Oct 26, 2023, 11:00am CDT

NORMAN — Ryan Broyles’ 1,622 receiving yards in 2010 remains the program’s single-season standard. His 131 catches that fall still top Oklahoma’s record books, too. For touchdown receptions, the Sooners’ standard lies with Dede Westbrook and his 17 scores in 2016.

OU’s football history includes a long line of prolific individual pass-catching seasons. Start with Tommy McDonald’s 1956 season, Eddie Hinton’s 64 catches in 1968 and Tinker Owens’ 26.8 yards per reception in the fall of 1975 and you’ll eventually hit Sterling Shepard’s 86 catches in 2015, Hollywood Brown’s 1,318 yards in 2018 and CeeDee Lamb’s 14 touchdowns a year later.

Take your pick from any of all the above; the Sooners have never seen a wide receiver open a campaign quite like Nic Anderson has in 2023. In fact, the redshirt freshman might be charting the most uncommon pass catching season in OU history.

Anderson’s two first-half scores against UCF last Saturday continued a scorching run and brought his tally to eight touchdown receptions in five contests. Seven games into his first full season of college football, Anderson sits just one touchdown shy of the nine scores Marvin Mims logged to set the program’s record for a first-year receiver in 2020.

Entering Saturday’s game at Kansas (11 a.m. Fox), Anderson’s five-game touchdown streak ranks as the longest in the Power 5.

“I think I’m just lucky to be put in those situations because a lot of other receivers get check downs and stuff,” Anderson said after the two score performance against UCF. “I got a couple of check downs, too … just blessed to get those opportunities.”

Within a vastly improved OU receiving corps, Anderson has undoubtedly been the brightest new spark.

A three-star recruit from Katy, Texas, Anderson arrived as a mid-year enrollee in January 2022, but spent most of his first season sidelined by soft-tissue injuries. This fall, he’s returned healthy and emerged as one of the Sooners’ most reliable downfield targets. Anderson’s 387 receiving yards trail only Jalil Farooq and Andrel Anthony among OU pass catchers.

“The more opportunity he’s had, the more he really has overdelivered,” Brent Venables said this week.

Anderson’s early fall touchdown count has been impressive but not unprecedented. Where the second-year receiver finds himself in unique history is the rate at which he’s scoring.

With eight scores on 16 total receptions, Anderson heads to Lawrence holding onto the highest single-season touchdown-to-catch ratio in program history for a player with at least 10 receptions, some distance ahead of previous leaders Lee Morris (38.1% — 2018), Mark Andrews (36.8 — 2015), Dimitri Flowers (36.4% — 2016) and Ben Hart (35.7% — 1964).

Anderson is sure to stay involved in the Sooners passing game, likely enough to pull down that historic touchdown-to-catch ratio.

But if he were to maintain his pace from now to the end of the season, where might Anderson’s land among the most singular pass catching seasons in program history? Let’s dive into it with some help from OU historian Mike Brooks.

More than 70 years before Anderson stepped on campus, there was George Thomas.

The halfback from Fairland, Oklahoma, took the opening kickoff of the 1949 season for a 95-yard touchdown and recorded 18 rushing scores that fall. He also found success in the receiving game — Thomas’ five touchdowns on six catches (83.3%) might mark the most efficient touchdown-to-catch rate in school history.

OU’s wishbone era of the 1970s was predicated on running the football. Yet those years produced some of the finest (read: wonkiest) pass catching seasons the program has ever seen.

Jon Harrison was a high school teammate of Jack Mildren and carried a similar build as current Sooner Drake Stoops. In 1971, he caught 17 passes for 494 yards for a whopping yards per reception total of 29.1 that still stands as the program record today.

Two years later, Wayne Hoffman made the most of his five receptions, finding the end one on four of them (80%). Victor Hicks followed the trend later in the decade; he scored on four of his six catches in 1977 (66.6%), then recorded three touchdowns on five receptions (60%) in 1978.

Billy Brooks became OU’s 87th All-American in 1975. He did so with five catches in 12 games.

Artie Guess, who played in Norman from 1986-90, never hit the minimum totals to qualify for any of the Sooners’ program records. However, he delivered a remarkable 1989 season when Guess averaged 39.7 yards per catch on nine receptions in his junior year.

In the 21st century, Anderson has his contemporaries.

Morris’ eight touchdowns in 2018 came on 21 catches. Andrews’ 2015 season saw him catch seven touchdowns on 19 receptions. Flowers logged his four scores on 11 catches in 2016.

Where Anderson lands from Thomas to Guess to Morris in the Sooners’ lore of odd receiving campaigns is up to you. Regardless, one of the most uncommon pass catching seasons in school history rolls on Saturday against Kansas.

 

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Eli Lederman reports on the University of Oklahoma for Sellout Crowd. He began his professional career covering the University of Missouri with the Columbia Missourian and later worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before two years writing on the Sooners and Cowboys at the Tulsa World. Born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York, Lederman grew up a rabid consumer of the New York sports pages and an avid fan of the New York Mets. He entered sportswriting at 14 years old and later graduated from the University of Missouri. Away from the keyboard, he can usually be found exploring the Oklahoma City food scene or watching/playing fútbol (read: soccer). He can be reached at [email protected].

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