With spring football starting this weekend in Norman, here are the 13 players who will have the most eyes on them in the next 15 practices.
Sooners to Watch This Spring
1. QB Kyler Murray
The five-star transfer is the highest-rated quarterback prospect to set foot in Norman since Rhett Bomar. Murray won’t play in 2016, but spring marks the start of the Baker Mayfield Replacement Race.
Sooner fans wondering how a 5-10 QB will fare in this offense should watch the first half of Oregon’s bowl game versus TCU and see how well Vernon Adams played.
2. QB Austin Kendall
With Cody Thomas taking a baseball sabbatical for at least spring football and maybe longer, Austin Kendall went from redshirt candidate to de facto backup QB for 2016.
Spring ball is going to bring a lot of reps for Kendall and Murray. I’m not sure I’d even dress Mayfield out for the spring game, to be honest.
3. DT Neville Gallimore
The best defensive tackle signed by OU since Gerald McCoy, the buzz on Gallimore has reached big levels. He has dropped bad weight and is probably close to 6-3, 300 now with speed and power matching Charles Walker. He could go a long way this spring toward taking over the spot vacated on the defensive line by Charles Tapper.
4. LB Ricky DeBerry
The other star defensive signee from last year’s recruiting class. DeBerry almost played last year, but with all of the depth at outside linebacker, OU held off.
There’s no one stopping DeBerry from taking over an OLB spot in the spring. He has the kind of all-around game that could help take the OU defense to the next level.
5. LB Tay Evans
The reign of Jordan Evans and Dom Alexander at inside linebacker is over – at least for the spring. Tay Evans has a chance to take over an ILB spot for the fall. He needs to establish himself as a playmaker during this extended trial because heralded freshman Caleb Kelly is coming in August.
6. CB P.J. Mbanasor
Like Tay Evans, Mbanasor has a chance to grab a starting spot before freshman reinforcements arrive. If he can take over the CB spot previously occupied by Zack Sanchez, it would allow OU to keep Will Johnson at nickelback.
Mbanasor is the kind of physical, playmaking CB that combined with Jordan Thomas would be ideal for OU.
7. OL Ben Powers
The only JUCO transfer on this list. With Jonathan Alvarez moving to center, there are two starting guard spots available. Some evaluators thought Powers was the best OG in the JUCO ranks this year. He’s a powerful, physical presence at 6-5, 320.
8. OL Cody Ford
At 6-3, 320, the four-star OG who redshirted last year is the mauler OU’s OL could use at one of the two open guard spots. Bill Bedenbaugh clearly wants to get bigger and stronger inside, and Ford represents that shift. (So does Johncarlo Valentin, who arrives in August.)
Ford is extremely talented, and along with Powers, he could create a young and talented tandem at offensive guard.
9. WR Dahu Green
One of the young receivers on the roster who has to step up this spring. Freshman alternatives will not be available until August, so the time is now.
Green was able to secure some playing time last season, but he struggled with drops. He has all the physical skills to take over a starting WR spot.
10. WR Jeff Mead
Mead finally seemed to find his hands in the Orange Bowl against Clemson. All joking aside, it’s time for Mead to put all those natural gifts together and become the big target that the OU offense needs, especially in the red zone.
11. WR John Humphrey
If a big receiver won’t step up, then maybe a speed WR will.
After an uneven spring last year, Humphrey redshirted and added some weight. He went on to excel on the scout team. Humphrey has the kind of speed that could stretch defenses downfield, especially when teams stack the box to stop Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.
12. DL Du’Vonta Lampkin
Another redshirt getting insane hype.
Lampkin is a physical presence at 6-4, 300 and could play inside or outside. Like Gallimore, Lampkin is the kind of big, explosive presence needed on the 3-4 DL to make it really hum against all types of offenses.
13. WR Geno Lewis
The graduate transfer from Penn State has a huge opportunity this spring to grab a starting WR spot next to Dede Westbrook. Lewis struggled lately at Penn State with limited playing time in the Nittany Lions' new offense. He racked up 700 receiving yards receiving in a more wide-open scheme the year before.
This could be Justin Brown redux with a full spring to get acclimated. Lewis was a four-star recruit out of high school, and the physical tools are all there.
Just missed the cut: DT Marquise Overton, WR/CB? Michiah Quick, OL Ashton Julious, OL Dwayne Orso Bacchus.