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CFF Targets - Jeff Lebby SZN at OU has my attention on this WR
Lebby has had a 1K-yard receiver four seasons in a row now, will his latest understudy carry the torch?
If I could find you now, things would get better
We could leave this town, and run forever
- Yellowcard, Music band / Lincoln Riley, USC Football coach
I am going to feature an Oklahoma Sooners (OU) player today for CFF purposes, but before diving in, I felt it appropriate to address the elephant in the room. Last season was a disaster for OU by their own standards, and most of the credit is due to one Lincoln Riley for detonating the roster.
What really bothers me about Riley is that he is so un-original, he didn’t even come up with his own pitch to QB Caleb Williams upon his move to USC, instead opting to quote the chorus of Yellowcard’s hit song Ocean Avenue to entice him to transfer. I mean… sure, the lyrics are appropriate, and Williams — being a Gen Z’er — didn’t even realize they were from a song, but it still bothered me.
Anyways, don’t ask me how I know that that was the pitch Riley gave, just know that I am well connected in the college football (CFB) world, and have eyes and ears everywhere.
But today I am not here to discuss USC. Instead, I’d like to feature WR Jalil Farooq. Year two of the Venables/Lebby regime figures to be an improvement off of last year’s record (the bar is pretty low), and the scheme in place has me interested in their pass-catcher.
Coaching & System
The head coach of OU — Brett Venables, is a defensive coach, so we won’t spend time analyzing his background. However, his OC Jeff Lebby is a name to know for CFF purposes.
Lebby joined OU last season as the OC, prior to that he spent two seasons at Ole Miss coaching QB Matt Corral in 2020 and 2021. He spent 2019 with the UCF Knights, which is likely where he met current OU QB Dillon Gabriel for the first time. He originally joined the Knights as the pass-game coordinator in 2018.
In his first season calling plays as the OC with the Knights, Lebby had three WRs catch over 700 yards: Gabe Davis (6’2, 210), Tre Nixon (6’2, 180), and Marlon Williams (6’0, 215).
In 2020, his leading receiver — Elijah Moore (5’10, 180), caught 86 passes for 1193 yards and 8 TDs while operating from the slot. The second leading receiver was the TE — Kenny Yaboah, who caught 524 yards and 6 TDs on 27 catches.
His lead receiver in 2021 was Dontario Drummond (6’1, 220), who was deployed all over the field, and caught 76 passes for 1028 yards and 8 TDs, while also rushing for 40 yards and another score on 6 carries.
Lebby’s run of 1000-yard receivers continued in 2022 with OU’s Marvin Mims (5’11, 180), who caught 54 passes (92 targets) for 1083 yards and 6 TDs (15.1 FPG in 1-ppr).
That’s a pretty good pattern of WR production, and with Marvin Mims now moving on, CFF managers are looking for who will be next on Lebby’s 1000-yard express train.
As mentioned, Lebby reunited with a former QB of his at OU in Dillon Gabriel. Entering year two at the P5 level, I’m looking for Gabriel to make a big jump in his performance in 2023. That would be great news for whoever ends up securing WR1 on this team, but even if Gabriel mirrors what he did last season (WR1 scored over 15 FPG), there would be value in Farooq (assuming he’s the main target man).
I suppose without further adieu, we should get to the man of the hour…
WR Jalil Farooq - 6’1, 203
Jalil Farooq is entering his third year of CFB with the Sooners. He played sparingly in his freshman season in 2021, but was featured more as a starter-ish in 2022, catching 37 passes on 60 targets for 466 yards and 5 TDs, he also carried the rock 15 times for 140 yards (9.8 FPG). His best game of the season came against Iowa State, where he caught 4 passes (4 targets) for 74 yards and a receiving TD, plus 26 yards rushing on 2 carries.
But those numbers were with Mims and Theo Wease in the fold (both are now gone). In 2023, there is only OU legacy Drake Stoops — who miraculously hasn’t graduated yet, and Michigan transfer Andrel Anthony to compete immediately. There are also some studs from the 2022 class and 2023 class who could emerge. Jayden Gibson was a player who had a solid spring last offseason, and Jaquaize Pettaway from the 2023 class was an impressive high school prospect. But these players are mere young pups, who have yet to make meaningful contributions at the collegiate level.
My outsider’s opinion is that Farooq’s veteran presence, and loyalty to the program will have him reaping major rewards this season. When things were getting crazy late in 2021, Farooq admits he was tempted to follow Lincoln ‘Ocean Avenue’ Riley to SoCal, but ultimately decided that OU was in his DNA. He credits Lebby’s presence to keeping him in Norman, and when asked about the offence this offseason, he had this to say:
I feel like I fit perfectly in the scheme that coach Lebby has . . . I’m very excited with what he brings to the table.
Lebby seemed to return the compliment when asked about Farooq:
He had a really good eight weeks with (Jerry Schmidt) getting going . . . He’s come prepared every single day, he’s bought in with what we’re doing offensively.
And in the first two days of practice, one thing he does incredibly well is this guy attacks off the ball. He runs off the ball. He’s incredibly competitive. He’s hard on himself. Looking for him to continue to grow and be a big part of it.
For context, Schmidt is the OU strength and conditioning coach.
I like what I’m hearing out of Lebby on Farooq’s development this spring, and with the runway now mostly clear, Farooq has a huge opportunity in front of him to put himself on NFL radars, and more importantly — make a massive impact in CFF.
Speaking of, I don’t know if his former teammate Theo Wease plays CFF, but by this quote it sounds like he’d have no problem spending a high draft pick on Farooq in re-draft formats, or even a C2C format:
I'm definitely putting my money into Jalil Farooq stock . . . He goes to work every day, he plays hard, he thinks hard and he's just an all-around great person.
These are all good signs as far as I’m concerned. Farooq’s physical profile also matches the prototypes that have been productive in Lebby’s offence in the past — which doesn’t really say much, since Lebby’s had productive wideouts come in all shapes and sizes — and since Stoops returns in the slot, I’ll assume he will be lining up on the boundary the most often. That being said, we’ve seen in the past that Lebby will deploy a jumbo slot in Dontario Drummond if he’s so inclined.
I want to see Gabriel turn it up a notch this season. If that happens, Farooq (or whoever is WR1), should be a valuable asset in CFF. I expect that overall OU will be a more effective team in 2023.
It sounds to me like Farooq has as good a shot as any in that room at WR1 status, but it’s not clear that he is the alpha in the room at this junction in time. Farooq has some solid production from 2022, but his profile is mostly a projection.
Even though they are not accomplished (yet), there are a lot of other WRs on this roster that offer intrigue, including Arizona State transfer LV Bunkley-Shelton and Texas transfer Brenen Thompson. Just because Lebby has had four straight seasons of 1K producers at WR, doesn’t mean it’s a lock it happens again.
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