Five Starting Positions For the Sooners That May Get Filled By Freshmen
Bob Stoops has several effective hard-line pitches to lure recruits to strap on the pads for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Program prestige, winning tradition, a storied history, that oh-so important television exposure.
But the one pitch that seemed to have brought a lot of the 2010 class of 29 new faces ( ranked as high as No. 2 according to http://scout.com ) is playing time.
Not just as back-ups or special teams guys either, but as starters. Most of this class, depending on position, comes in knowing they will compete for a chance to start.
It's up to Stoops and his coaching staff to get them ready for the bright lights of the college game because some of the positions that could be filled by freshmen will most likely be out of a combination of their talent, and a lack of depth at that position.
A few positions may find a freshman starter because they are just flat out that good. Not quite Adrian Peterson good, but ready to contribute as freshmen starters none the less.
Here are five key positions that the OU coaching staff could find themselves thrusting a freshman, redshirt and true alike, into, and all are coveted starting roles for a team considered a Top Ten caliber squad.
This is the one position that shouldn't be a problem, but is.
Kevin Wilson (OU TE/FB coach) will have his hands full looking for the next Jermain Gresham, but he may just be able to coach one out of this talented bunch.
What is really going on with Eric Mensic? Is he going to be pulled back to the tackle spot?
Trent Ratterree stepped out in front of the pack of many star laden recruits late last year with his Sun bowl performance with his 36-yard grab, then the nice snatch-and-tuck for a first down on 3rd and 11.
So that may sew up half of this set, not counting Wilson's trips TE set that fell by the wayside due to injuries in 2009.
So what about the other end?
There are a few new faces that will challenge for this starting role, and all of them are freshmen.
Gabe Ikard is coming out of redshirt and with a season to learn the system, may have the inside track on getting a starting spot.
True freshman Trey Millard may end up playing at FB ( think J.D. Runnels ) but that is yet to play out. If he stays at TE he may end up being a solid blocker and a nice replacement to "Mr. Everything" Brody Eldridge.
Out of the three, true freshman Austin Haywood may have the best skill set. Clocking in a 4.6 in the 40, standing 6'5", and weighing in at 245lbs. Austin can be an immediate force if he is able to grasp Kevin Wilson's vast, complicated playbook.
Offensive Line (LG)
This position was a problem for offensive line coach James Patton and may be again this year.
But thats doubtful.
Well, hopefully Stephen Good will finally decide that he can compete at this level.
But if not, or even if he does, Mustang, OK has produced a monster that may just step right in and take his spot in Bronson Irwin.
Although he played at the LT position for most of his high school career, Bronson is a gritty kid who is ready for the college game physically and comes well prepared due to the fact that Irwin's high school team (Mustang) runs a similar offense.
Add to all that the fact that he is a life-long Sooner fan that can't wait to leave his mark in Norman, and you can see how this kid may be ready to show coach Patton that he is ready for a starting role.
Keenan Clayton and the "Quarterback of the defense" Ryan Reynolds are gone. Leaving two spots open; the SLB and MLB positions.
Ronnell "The Hammer" Lewis may have sealed a starting role at the SLB spot, leaving just the middle under contention.
Redshirt freshman Tom Wort may finally get his chance to shine after an ACL injury during spring practice one year ago in this spot. Word is coming out that his rehab has gone great and he is almost back to full strength.
The only true freshman that will have a shot at unseating one of these three is the final commitment of the 2010 class Corey Nelson.
Considered the "Crown jewel" of the class by some, Corey just needs to get his weight up some from 210lbs. Because his technique and football IQ are what sets him apart.
Defensive Back (BCB)
What will new DB coach Willie Martinez do here?
Demontre Hurst will most likely lock down the the "field" side of the CB position, leaving the "boundary" side up for contention.
Jonathan Nelson came on strong late for the Sooners, but he may be moved back to Safety.
Redshirt freshman Gabe Lynn will have his chance to make a splash this spring, but two true freshmen corners with lock-down ability may just find themselves in the open spot.
The first one is Aaron Colvin, maybe the fastest guy in Norman and a much overlooked talent who reached his current potential with the help of fellow Sooner Gabe Lynn's father.
Aaron is a track guy with great feet and hands, in 1 on 1's against the No. 1 ranked in-state player in DeMarrco Cobbs (Texas commit), Colvin shut him down time and time again.
Next is James Haynes, another track guy. He has all the skills needed to suceed at this level.
At 6'1", 185lbs, and running a legit 10.3 James will step off the bus ready to go, if he can grasp the speed of the game.
The secondary may be the most clouded of all the position groups. Coach Martinez has built a solid reputation on getting the most from his guys, and then putting them in the right spot to reach thier full potential.
With all this talent at his disposal, and his coaching skill, Martinez should get it going fast. Stoops, who always keeps an eye on the secondary will make sure of that.
Drawing comparisons to "Superman" Roy Williams, Tony Jefferson is still only 17 years old.
A true ball-hawk, this California kid is ready in almost every way for prime time.
Every major school from USC, to Florida and Alabama wanted Tony's services, but after being heavily persuaded by fellow prospect Brennan Clay, Jefferson decided on OU.
Joseph Ibiloye and Jonathan Nelson are his biggest competition as of right now, but Tony may just be the kind of talent that can't be refused playing time. Plus, the coaching staff have nothing but positive things to say about him, which can't hurt his chances.
Jefferson is an electric hitter with great instincts to boot, this young talent is considered by most to get more significant playing time in 2011, but it would be no surprise to see Tony out there sooner rather than later.
Since Roy Williams, OU has been on a constant search for the new "Superman", many have failed, and a few have come close.
Tony Jefferson may have just ended that search.