Training camp is over. The class has started. Game plans are being installed. The depth charts are almost complete.
So which incoming freshmen have the best chance to help the Oklahoma football team this season?
Start with speed. Rookies who play at elite speed have the best chance to play early. It also helps if there is an opportunity for new blood in the double deep. And special teams is always a path to early playing time.
AllSooners predicts which five freshmen will have the biggest impact in 2022:
RB Gavin Savchuk
Gavin Savchuk didn’t arrive on campus until this summer, but he’s already checking off all three fields that typically put freshmen on the field.
A high school sprinter in Colorado, Sawchuk is already one of the Sooners’ fastest players. He will certainly get opportunities on special teams as a kickoff returner. And Oklahoma’s running back room gives him a chance to play right away.
OR returns senior Eric Gray. A fourth year student Marcus Major had his most productive offseason yet. Fellow freshman Yovantae Barnes I took advantage of spring practice. And Towie Walker and Bentavius Thompson not your typical rides.
But in terms of natural running back instincts, punching power and breakaway speed, Sawchuk is the complete package. If he learns the nuances of pass protection, he will get consistent playing time this season.
CB Jaden Rowe
When he was recruited by the Tulsa Union, it was actually talked about Jaden Rowe a possible move to defensive end someday.
He’s a cornerback.
However, Rowe is 6-2, 218 pounds and plays with unusual physicality and aggression. He’s been bigger than the other all his life, and it serves him well today. He is a physical freak.
Rowe is the rare combination of size and speed. A high school sprint champion, Rowe comes to Norman as one of the fastest players on the roster.
One cornerback position is filled by Woody Washington. DJ Graham it may lock the other – or it may not. And then there’s the nickel position and what the new coaching staff wants it to look like.
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Rowe has a lot to learn about defensive ends in college, but he’s physically advanced. He can also become an instant contributor on special teams.
WR Jaden Gibson
The fact that Jaden Gibson a broken 95-yard touchdown reception in the red/white game wasn’t surprising — and it’s not necessarily what will get him on the field in 2022.
In his final two high school seasons in Winter Garden, Fla., he rushed for more than 1,600 yards and caught 22 touchdowns.
But even in a place like Oklahoma, Gibson has a unique skill set. As offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and the OU coaching staff fill out the receiving corps with bigger bodies, the 6-foot-5, 192-pound Gibson continues to stand out.
Along with 6-4 freshman Nick Anderson and 6-4 transfer JJ Hester, the Sooner receivers are physical marvels. Gibson will get opportunities to use his size advantage and could emerge early as a red zone threat.
CB Gentry Williams
When the Sooners wrapped up training camp, technology revealed the truth: a cornerback Gentry Williams ran faster than anyone else.
Wearing a speedometer, Williams reached 21 mph twice in practice, which became the team’s top speed.
What this means for playing time is simple: The coaches need to find room on the field for the Tulsa cornerback.
Corner is a tough place for any true freshman to break into as a starter or regular contributor. Receivers are too physically advanced and college offenses are too sophisticated. But Williams has that ability – a cool head, a short memory and a fearless approach. Even if he gets reps at corner, look for Williams to be among the early candidates to return kickoffs and punts and use his elite speed for game-breaking play.
LB Jaren Kanak
Linebacker is crowded in Oklahoma with seniors DaShawn White and David Ugwoegbu both back to the Sooners’ middle and weak spots and the sophomore Danny Stutsman capable of playing any position.
Also, talented freshmen Kobe McKinsey and Kip Lewis they look ready for early playing time somewhere.
But the Canuck from Hays, Kansas, is more than just a defenseman. He’s an athlete with quickness and intelligence, a 6-2, 221-pounder who can fill multiple roles, including the old strong position — now dubbed the “cheetah” by the coaching staff, a hybrid between nickel corner and Sam linebacker.
The Canucks’ main value in 2022 could be on special teams. Whether he’s covering kickoffs or punts, or perhaps rushing the punter, Canuck’s profile fits: he’ll go full speed, hug tackles and wreak havoc.