By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
What do you do when you have a lot of receiving talent and only one football? That’s a question that has been on Stillwater High School offensive coordinator Paul Hix’s mind since the Pioneers opened spring camp Monday.
The answer: Just keep throwing.
With game changers like Brandon Prather and Spencer Parsons on the field, why wouldn’t you? The biggest problem is making sure those playmakers get enough touches.
“We’re getting pretty dynamic,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “It’s a good problem to have. I think if you can keep a defense from keying in too tightly on one individual, that’s a great issue. As long as they understand their job, understand their role and understand the teamwork we talked about we should be pretty solid at the receiver position.”
Solid is one way to put it. Explosive would be another.
The Pioneers will return three of their top four receivers from last year’s group, including Prather, who had a breakout year with 65 catches for 1,015 yards and nine touchdowns. Now, others like Parsons are hoping this will be their year to break out.
“I would like to have a big season,” Parsons said. “I know Brandon is probably going to have a good season, too, but it’s nice if we’re both getting fair amounts of balls thrown our way.”
The only one that isn’t returning is Darian Williams. Williams often drew double and sometimes triple teams, giving guys like Prather and Parsons the chance to shine.
Even though Williams is gone, there hasn’t really been much drop off from a season ago.
“I think we’re adjusting really well,” Parsons said. “We’re accepting the fact that he’s gone and we’re kind of just trying to pick it up and go right back at it without even worrying about it.”
That means all eyes will likely turn to Prather and Parsons this fall.
“I don’t know if (Prather) is feeling much pressure or not, but he had such a great year last year that he just needs to come out and continue to do what he’s capable of doing,” Barnard said. “He’s got great ability. We just have to make sure he stays hooked up.”
Prather has already shown what he can do this spring, gashing Stillwater’s No. 1 defense for a big gain Thursday in practice. Parsons is right there with him, turning his normally sure hands and steady feet into a touchdown that left the safeties grabbing for air.
“It was a lot of fun out here today on both sides of the ball,” Barnard said. “Those guys are explosive and Braxton (Noble) does a good job of delivering the football. Coach Hix is a smart dude and finds ways to get the ball in those guys’ hands.”
It’s that kind of explosive burst that Barnard and the Pioneers hope leads to a lot more touchdowns down the road.
“It’s awesome knowing that if I run a route and I’m not open, he’s going to be open,” Parsons said. “It’s a really cool thing we got working for us.”
No doubt that Prather and Parsons will garner their fair share of attention but perhaps the player with the biggest upside hasn’t even touched a football yet.
“I don’t think people know what Jordan Brown is going to be able to do,” Barnard said. “He’s certainly got a lot of talent. He’s a little banged up right now, but he’ll be back with us soon. He’s got speed like Brandon does on the outside. We think that when it becomes time, we’re really going to be able to stretch people vertically and horizontally.”
Throw in a hybrid receiver like Will Fowler, who can rotate between tight end and the slot, and you’ve got one of the deepest receiving corps in Stillwater history.
“I feel like Will Fowler is probably going to have a breakout year,” Parsons said. “We didn’t really have much of a tight end or fullback kind of guy running routes for us last year. Having him out there might confuse a few defenses and he might surprise some people because they might not know what he’s capable of doing.”
Both Parsons and Barnard were hesitant to say that this is the best receiving corps Stillwater has had, but both know that there’s definitely the potential to be the best when it’s all said and done.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the best group,” Parsons said. “My sophomore year we were pretty deep at the receiver position, but it’s pretty high up there. We have a lot of talent this year, so it’s pretty exciting.”