Brent Venables and his coaching staff did a tremendous job finishing the 2022 cycle with the No. 8 recruiting class. There’s a lot of talent in this group. Notably 15 true freshmen cracked the game one depth chart released earlier this week.
Those freshmen came right in and got to work. The mid-year enrollees spent the winter and spring reshaping their bodies and learning the ins and outs of the playbooks.
With so many true freshmen on the depth chart and a game against an opponent that Oklahoma should beat comfortably, we could see quite a few of these freshmen getting game action this weekend. We took the liberty of tossing out the five freshmen to we’re looking forward to watching.
Jovantae Barnes, RB
Oklahoma running back Jovantae Barnes (2) is tackled by cornerback Kani Walker (26) during the school’s NCAA college spring football game, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Jovantae Barnes has earned rave reviews since enrolling on campus mid-year. He’s a talented and gifted runner with good size, burst, and agility to be a playmaker for years to come.
Eric Gray and Marcus Major are the clear leaders in the running back room, but with a long season ahead and the possibilities for a blowout, we should be able to see him tote the rock in the second half.
He looked excellent in the spring game scoring two touchdowns and social media was buzzing about his ability then. This time it’s for real and while he may not be a focal point yet, he could give us a glimpse of what he can do.
He can also give his coaches peace of mind that if he’s needed to be a primary back at any point this season, he can do it.
Jaren Kanak, LB
Linebacker Jaren Kanak practices as the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) holds fall camp practice at the rugby fields on Aug. 16, 2022 in Norman, Okla. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman]
Jaran Kanak had one of the most interesting recruiting stories of the 2022 class. The freshman from Kansas is an absolute freak athlete and will thrive playing MIKE linebacker in this defense.
He has the size, speed, and power to handle being a monster in the middle. He’s behind starter David Ugwoegbu and is listed with an “or” designation with Jake McCoy.
Kanak seems like a lock to see the field Sunday as a blowout would mean no more Ugwoegbu and the Sooners will want to showcase both to see who can separate and win the backup middle linebacker job.
Jacob Sexton, RT
Jacob Sexton (76), Edmond, goes through drills as the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU ) hold fall football camp outside Gaylord Family/Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Aug. 8, 2022 in Norman, Okla. Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman
Jacob Sexton is a homegrown Sooner and will see the field a lot this weekend. He’s a big dude who’s put in a lot of work since getting to campus in the summer and has put himself in position to get meaningful snaps on Saturday,
He’ll be first up if anything happens to starter Wanya Morris. Sexton was one of the few Sooner commits that never backed off their pledge in the face of Lincoln Riley’s departure and has already endeared himself to the fans. He’ll have another opportunity on Saturday.
Jayden Gibson, WR
Apr 23, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Jayden Gibson (1) scores a touchdown past defensive back Dorian Plumley (34) and defensive back Damond Harmon (17) during the spring game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jayden Gibson may be a sneaky candidate for whatever award goes to a freshman player that is a starter by year’s end.
That size and speed combo is lethal and can’t be taught. He’s a freak and will see snaps on Saturday.
Will he make any plays? He’s made them all off-season so why stop now when the lights are on? He’s listed behind veteran receiver Theo Wease but with the way receivers rotate plus the possibility for mop-up duty, we should see a fair share of Gibson.
R Mason Thomas, DE
Oct 9, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners fans during the game against the Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
R Mason Thomas, a defensive end out of the state of Florida was an Iowa State commit for a while before he was flipped by Miguel Chavis and signed with Oklahoma.
He’s come right in and put in the work. While he is an undersized defensive end, he offers some other tools that have caught the eyes of his peers and coaches. Starter Ethan Downs called him “the fastest dude in the (defensive end) room right now.”
With that type of speed could he replicate what Nik Bonitto was able to do in Norman? Bonitto used his speed and quickness to blow past would-be blockers for years. He became one of the nation’s best pass rushers that way. Listed on the third team at both defensive end spots, Thomas will have to wait his turn but we’d love to see him in action.