Two Oklahoma Sooners make top true freshman list to watch

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When it comes to true freshmen for the upcoming season, 247Sports highlighted 100 players to watch. The Sooners have two true freshmen that made the cut, one on each side of the ball. Both players are poised for a breakout campaign in Norman.

Clayton Smith, Linebacker

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What 247Sports Says…

Pretty much everyone is back for the Sooners, but there is a rotational opening at outside linebacker with Jon-Michael Terry’s exit from the program. Smith is positioned to take some of those 331 snaps next to Nik Bonitto. And that might be an upgrade. Smith is instantly one of the most naturally talented pass rushers on the Sooners’ roster, and the motor he displayed in high school – he posted 40 TFLs and 20 sacks as a junior – indicates he’ll carve out a role immediately. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has already talked Smith up as someone who can take a lot of those reps Terry vacated. Smith is a bit raw, but he’s just one of those guys who finds a way to attack the football.

The departure of Ronnie Perkins to the NFL presents opportunities for young guys to step up, beginning with Smith. He is relentless in his pursuit of the ball and explodes off the line of scrimmage. Smith can act as a hybrid edge rusher, effectively playing as an off-ball linebacker in Alex Grinch’s system. With Nik Bonitto as the key cornerstone at Rush linebacker and Isaiah Thomas as a disruptor on the opposite side, Smith can be a rotation piece in certain packages. His athleticism provides tremendous flexibility, a trait Grinch covets in his players.

Mario Williams, Wide Receiver

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What 247Sports Says…

Oklahoma always seems to have a next star receiver in the pipeline. Marvin Mims broke out last year, earning 247Sports True Freshman All-America honors. Now it seems Williams could be in line for a similar season. The nation’s No. 42 overall prospect and No. 4 receiver in the 2021 class, Williams made a star turn during the Sooners’ spring game catching a game-high five passes for 84 yards.

Spencer Rattler won’t lack options to throw to in 2021 with Marvin Mims, Jadon Haselwood and Arkansas transfer Mike Woods, but Williams showed Saturday he’ll at worst be part of the rotation. At best, he can provide a secondary complement to Mims that the Sooners lacked a season ago.

Williams adds to Spencer Rattler’s supporting cast. He is dynamic after the catch and quickly creates separation from press at the line of scrimmage. His change-of-direction will be dangerous for Big 12 defenses. Williams will likely line up primarily in the slot, but Oklahoma likes to rotate receivers in Lincoln Riley’s spread attack. He has the capability of elevating OU’s horizontal and vertical passing game. Many teammates have praised Williams’ quickness in practice and his infectious attitude is impacting the Sooners receiver room. He will be a guy to keep an eye on come fall in Crimson and Cream. Oklahoma had the most dropped touchdown passes a year ago, and the unit is gearing up to right the wrong between the hash marks in 2021.