In this week's Take Two Tuesday, we weigh in on which Big 12 team will have the most impactful freshman class this fall. Who has the most holes to fill with rookies?
Brandon Chatmon: Oklahoma needs its freshman class to make an impact.
The Sooners' secondary, in particular, will be counting on baby faces to come in immediately and play. True freshmen Will Sunderland Jr., Prentice McKinney and Kahlil Haughton will get the chance to help right away at safety with no depth behind Steven Parker, Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd. All three freshman safeties should get the chance to earn time in the Sooners defense while also playing special teams. And cornerback P.J. Mbanasor will also get the chance to play immediately in a Sooners secondary that struggled mightily in 2014.
“They better be ready to go. I need those guys. They're going to be young and new but if they come in with passion and energy and they want to get on the field -- be it special teams or sub packages -- I’m going to push them that way,” OU defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said.
Outside of the secondary, other summer newcomers should also play a role. OU is counting on kicker Austin Seibert to immediately step into the starting battle as a kicker and punter while linebacker Ricky DeBerry joins early enrollees John Humphrey Jr. and Rodney Anderson as skill position players who could earn a role as true freshmen.
The Sooners have several promising young players on the roster but a talent infusion in the summer, which amps up the overall competition on the squad, could greatly strengthen their chances of becoming Big 12 title contenders.
Max Olson: On paper, Texas looks like a team that’ll roll out and rely on far more newcomers than usual. I look at their top-10 ranked class and can easily circle at least 16 names of freshmen who’ll get a shot right away.
As is the case at OU, the quickest fixes might come in the secondary after Texas’ depth was exposed by a few spring injuries. Holton Hill, Davante Davis, Kris Boyd, DeShon Elliott and P.J. Locke should all arrive with the intention of helping this defense in 2015. Not all of them will, but the competition for the five starting spots should be serious once they get on campus.
At receiver, none of the four signees are guaranteed a redshirt. The staff loves John Burt's potential, but I won’t be surprised if Ryan Newsome, DeAndre McNeal and Gilbert Johnson all find their way onto the field at some point this season. Texas' receiver room could be loaded in a few years if these guys are as good as advertised.
The most important freshmen? Probably Malik Jefferson and Connor Williams, who could become starters quickly after enrolling early. Anthony Wheeler and Cecil Cherry will push for reps at linebacker, too. Then you’ve got the running backs, where Chris Warren III comes in with big expectations and Kirk Johnson could surprise. Lastly, can’t forget Devonaire Clarington. With no proven pass-catcher at tight end, Texas could put him to use if he’s ready.
Of course, all of those are big ifs. Inexperience and injuries will keep a few of them off the field, I’m sure, but Charlie Strong’s first full, foundational class at UT will be heard from early and often.