Orange Bowl Football

Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown speaks to reporters during an NCAA college football media day on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama plays Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma will move forward without its top receiver this season after Marquise Brown declared for the NFL Draft.

The junior announced the news Wednesday via Twitter. It was somewhat expected after Brown tallied 1,318 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns this fall while fighting through multiple injuries.

ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks Brown as the draft’s 27th overall prospect.

In two seasons with OU, Brown accrued 2,413 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns and was among the nation’s top pass catchers. He is the second Sooner to declare for the draft in as many days; right tackle Cody Ford announced his decision Tuesday. 

For Brown, the NFL marks another step in an unlikely climb. He came to OU weighing 144 pounds out of College of the Canyons (California) junior college, after receiving few Division I offers out of Chaminade Madonna High School (Florida).

His breakneck speed and production despite a 5-foot-10, 168-pound frame made him one of the most beloved Sooners the past two seasons. Brown’s open-field ability helped him lead the nation since 2017 with 14 catches of 50 yards or more.

But he wasn’t a one-trick wonder.

“He plays stronger [now]. He’s able to block. He’s able to run through some tackles now. I think he’s a little more durable. He’s learned to use his speed as a weapon but not all the time,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said in September. “When he got here, he was always fast. You loved that. You would much rather have a guy playing fast all the time and you’ve got to pump the brakes on him a few times as opposed to a guy that’s not. But he was just out of control when he got here.

“He was falling down on routes. It was fast, but it was like, ‘Whoa. You’ve got a great weapon, but you’ve got to learn how to use it.’ And he’s learned that.”

Next season the Sooners return juniors CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra, plus senior Lee Morris, who combined for 25 TD catches this fall. Redshirt sophomore receiver Charleston Rambo has bigger expectations, too, after catching three passes for 74 yards and a score in the Orange Bowl

OU also welcomes highly touted freshman wide receivers Trejan Bridges and Theo Wease. It could still add another five-star receiver in Jadon Haselwood, who is set to announce a decision between Oklahoma, Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee at Saturday’s All-American Bowl.