Fresno State transfer wide receiver Jalen Saunders has been cleared by the NCAA to play immediately for the Oklahoma Sooners. Bob Stoops made that announcement following Wednesday’s practice at the OU practice fields.
Saunders was one of the Sooners’ star receivers during preseason practices and scrimmages and coaches had hoped he would be ruled eligible through a waiver which was filed with the NCAA following his transfer from Fresno State.
Before the Sooners’ season opener Stoops announced Saunders’ appeal to play immediately was denied.
But Wednesday during practice, OU received news from the NCAA he would be eligible immediately for competition.
“You’re getting a guy that’s played a lot of ball and has played it well,” said Stoops.
Saunders, an Elk Grove, Calif., native, caught 50 passes for 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns last season at Fresno State. He was named to the first team All-WAC selection and a member of the Biletnikoff Award watch list.
Now his talents become immediately available to Landry Jones and the Sooner offense.
So how does this happen? How does a talented player ruled ineligible become eligible six weeks into a college football season?
“There’s been a lot of information exchanged back and forth so finally they got it all cleared and cleared up,” said Stoops.
It was no secret Saunders was one of the brightest stars during OU’s major scrimmages during preseason camp. But with Kenny Stills, Justin Brown, Sterling Shepard and others starting to emerge at wide receiver, is there room for Saunders in the wide receiver rotation.
“I think now that we’re gaining more confidence with some of these other guys and doing the right things, it allows them to play harder and rotate out and rotate in and I think it will, I just believe it will help,” said Stoops.
But help as quickly as Saturday during the Red River Rivalry? Stoops said they just moved Saunders from the scout team to the varsity in the middle of today’s practice.
“I’m hopeful and I believe he will (play this week),” said Stoops. “We just found out an hour ago. We’ve got to do some more work here to make sure we’re comfortable with it.”
Saunders can also serve the Sooners on special teams as a return man. Currently Penn State transfer Justin Brown holds down the starting punt return duties, but it’s clear Saunders was on the verge of playing a major role on special teams before his waiver was denied.
“He’s quick, he’s got a great sense of space in there and he’s got great hands,” said Stoops of Saunders. “He’s got great ability to get open. We really like him.”