The Oklahoma Sooners football team will feature plenty of raw talent in 2013.
With several seniors leaving and multiple juniors already declaring for the NFL draft, the Sooners could elect to start multiple true freshmen.
The defensive line and secondary figure to be two areas of uncertainty next season. With the arrival of several promising prospects, it's likely OU fans will see at least one first-year player rise to the top of the depth chart.
Although it's early, here are five recruits most likely to start as freshmen for the Sooners in 2013.
(Note: All photos courtesy of 247sports.com.)
Defensive end D.J. Ward could be an immediate contributor for the Sooners in 2013.
The Lawton, Okla., native is ranked sixth nationally for his position, according to Scout.com. At 6'4", 235 pounds, he'll need to put on weight as he transitions to the college game.
The Sooners will field a new-look defensive line next season. Sophomore end Chuka Ndulue is the only consistent starter who returns. Tackles Casey Walker, Stacy McGee and Jamarkus McFarland are all departing. End David King leaves as well.
Ward will bring much-needed talent to the unit. He should compete with Geneo Grissom, Mike Onuoha and possibly Rashod Favors and others for the starting end position opposite Ndulue.
Even if he doesn't become a starter in 2013, it's only a matter of time before Ward makes a name for himself at Oklahoma.
There's plenty to be excited about with two-way athlete Stanvon Taylor.
The 4-star (according to Scout.com) Tulsa, Okla., native will probably play cornerback for the Sooners. His agility and experience at receiver will be key assets for the secondary.
At free safety, Tony Jefferson's decision to forgo his senior season for the NFL draft means OU fans will see several fresh faces at defensive back in 2013. The Sooners lose strong safety Javon Harris. Gone too is senior cornerback Demontre Hurst.
Hopefully, cornerback Aaron Colvin returns for his senior year. If he doesn't, Oklahoma will be hurting in terms of experience.
Given the upcoming shuffling, Taylor has a real chance to become an immediate starter. Kass Everett, Gary Simon and Joe Powell are other players with the potential to rise to the top of the depth chart at cornerback.
Perhaps most likely to start as a freshman is Hatari Byrd, a safety from Fresno, Calif.
Byrd, the No. 14 overall safety according to Scout.com, could be the next Tony Jefferson. He already boasts impressive size at 6'2", 200 pounds. His Scout.com profile notes that he is an "intimidating hitter" with the potential to play linebacker.
Should he remain a safety, it's hard to imagine Byrd not being an immediate starter. He has a great opportunity with both 2012 safeties leaving (Jefferson and Javon Harris).
Byrd's arrival will be a blessing for the Oklahoma D. He will be utilized immediately at a position that seems scarily thin at the moment. Fellow prospects Ahmad Thomas and Dominique Alexander will help fill the holes as well.
Defensive tackle will also take a hit for the Sooners this offseason. Look for Dallas native Kerrick Huggins to vie for immediate playing time.
The only returning tackle listed on the current OU depth chart is freshman Jordan Phillips, who played in 11 games this season.
Assuming Phillips earns a starting spot, Huggins could compete with JUCO transfer Quincy Russell for the other tackle position.
Scout.com labels Huggins a 4-star prospect with promising size (6'4", 280 pounds) and flexibility.
We should be in for an intriguing position battle in preseason camp. Most likely, Huggins or Russell will start opposite Jordan Phillips. Damon Williams, Torrea Peterson and Jordan Wade could be in the mix as well.
Hatari Byrd may not be the only freshman to start at safety next season.
Miami native Ahmad Thomas should have a serious chance to start amid the personnel void. At 6'0", 210 pounds, he already has the requisite size for the safety position.
The 3-star prospect (according to Scout.com) led Miami Central High School to a state championship his senior season. He followed that up with an appearance in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
It's hard to say for sure what his role will be in the Sooner secondary next season. But at this point, Thomas seems to have as good a chance as any other returning defensive back to start at one of the safety spots.
If Thomas does win the starting job, we could see a very rare occurrence: two freshman safeties in the Oklahoma secondary.