Several Oklahoma Sooners featured in ESPN’s 50 greatest true freshmen of all-time

·5 min read

On a roster that endured as much turnover as the Oklahoma Sooners did this offseason, one would think there’d be a clearer path to a starting role for a true freshman. With fall camp getting underway, there are certainly freshmen who could emerge and find a role as a rotational player, or even starter, but they’d have to overcome some talented veterans to take on a feature role.

At running back, many believe Jovantae Barnes or Gavin Sawchuk could take over at running back, but with the glowing remarks about Eric Gray from offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, that seems unlikely. At least through the first few weeks of the season. Additionally, Marcus Major and Bentavious Thompson provide a hill the true freshmen have to climb.

Gentry Williams could factor in at safety, and Kaden Helms or Jason Llewellyn could be featured in the passing game, but there isn’t a clearly defined role for them as fall camp gets underway.

Looking back, the Oklahoma Sooners have had some true freshmen emerge to have fantastic seasons for the Sooners. In recent history, CeeDee Lamb comes to mind. Lamb caught 46 passes for 807 yards and seven touchdowns in his true freshman season in 2017.

Ahead of the 2022 college football season, ESPN’s Bill Connelly ranked the top 50 true freshmen of all time (ESPN+), and several Oklahoma Sooners were included on the list.

Adrian Peterson, 2004

Nov. 13,2004; Norman, Oklahoma USA; Oklahoma Sooner runningback Adrian Peterson #28 rushes against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the 1st half of the game at Memorial Stadium. Photo by Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports (c) Copyright 2004 Tim Heitman

Overall: 9

Running Back: 4

What ESPN had to say:

As good as quarterback Jason White had been in 2003, Oklahoma was held back at times by a merely decent run game. That was not a problem in 2004. Peterson not only stepped into the lineup as a freshman but carried a huge load, rushing 339 times for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns as the Sooners charged to 12-1 and a third Big 12 title in five years. – Bill Connelly, ESPN

Adrian Peterson’s freshman season might have earned him more Heisman consideration in 2004 had voters been more open to the idea of a freshman winning the award. Traditionally, the award had been handed out to juniors and seniors. Only in recent seasons were freshmen able to breakthrough with serious consideration. Johnny Manziel was the first freshman to win the award back in 2012.

Tommie Harris, 2001

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Overall: 13

Defensive Tackle: 2

What ESPN had to say:

A ridiculous athlete and one of the top Texas prospects in the 2001 class, the speedy 275-pounder signed for the defending national champions and stormed into a lineup that already featured stars such as Roy Williams, Antonio Perkins and Rocky Calmus. He started every game as a freshman and finished with 18 tackles for loss as the Sooners finished second in scoring defense and won 11 games. – Connelly, ESPN

Imagine being so good as a freshman that you can crack the lineup of the defending national champions. Harris and the Sooners’ defense went from allowing 14.9 points per game in 2000 to 13 points per game in 2001.

Jamelle Holieway, 1985

Sep 1986; Norman, OK, USA; FILE PHOTO; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback #4 Jamelle Holieway in action against UCLA during the 1986 season. Photo By Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) Malcolm Emmons

Overall: 20

Quarterback: 4

What ESPN had to say:

With the signing of players like local star Troy Aikman, Oklahoma’s Barry Switzer began to drift from his wishbone and option ways. But when Aikman broke his leg early in 1985, Switzer put a freshman from Los Angeles behind center and won the national title with the option. Holieway rushed for 862 yards and eight scores, and while he completed only 24 passes all season, they went for 517 yards and five touchdowns. – Connelly, ESPN

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that a California quarterback came in for an injured Aikman, which subsequently forced Aikman to transfer to a California school, UCLA?

Oklahoma went 11-1 in 1985 and won the AP National Championship after their win in the Orange Bowl over Penn State.

Samaje Perine, 2014

Nov 22, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) runs for a touchdown during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Overall: 26

Running Back: 7

What ESPN had to say:

The load-carrying feature back has become rarer in the 21st century, but that just makes the 245-pound Perine an old soul. He rushed 34 times for 242 yards against West Virginia, 25 for 213 against Texas Tech and, in his masterpiece, 34 for 427 and five TDs in a record-setting performance against Kansas. He finished the year with an incredible 1,713 yards and 21 scores. – Connelly, ESPN

Samaje Perine was eased into action his freshman year, averaging just 10 carries per game against Louisiana Tech, Tennessee, and Tulane. After his incredible performance against West Virginia, Perine carried the ball fewer than 17 times just once over the remainder of the season. The 48-14 loss to Baylor. He became a workhorse back for the Sooners.

Mark Hutson, 1984

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Overall: NR

Offensive Tackle: 10

Mark Hutson was only the seventh true freshman in school history to start for the Oklahoma Sooners when he was slotted in at left tackle in 1984. The Sooners went on to finish No. 6 in the AP poll. Hutson has had a long coaching career that’s taken him from college to the NFL, and he now serves as the head coach at Sallisaw High School.

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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire