Star quarterback Baker Mayfield returns, joined by his entire offensive line, almost every starting defensive back and experience on the defensive line, just to name a few. It probably doesn’t leave much room for an influx of talented youngsters to see the field this year. That’s not stopping them from trying, though, as a whopping 12 early enrollees hit campus this semester, hoping to impress head coach Bob Stoops and his staff during spring practice.
A handful of newcomers from the past two recruiting classes likely will get a shot to contribute come September. Here are five to keep a close eye on, listed in order of importance.
Marquise Brown, WR, Junior College Transfer
A year ago, everyone in Sooner Nation wanted to know who could possibly replace an all-time great like Sterling Shepard at receiver. Dede Westbrook gave a definitive answer in the fall.
Now the Sooners are looking to fill Westbrook's shoes. They should fit the speedy junior college transfer Brown well.
Receivers coach Dennis Simmons didn’t recruit Brown for depth. He’s a solid bet to become Mayfield’s top target this year.
Jon-Michael Terry, LB, Redshirt Freshman
Oklahoma has struggled to build depth at inside linebacker, a recruiting shortcoming that could come back to bite Stoops this season. Jordan Evans' graduation leaves a huge hole, and Terry appears to be first in line to replace OU's leading tackler from 2016.
At 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, the redshirt freshman looks the part physically. Can he handle the mental aspects of the position? That’s a more important question at this point.
In a perfect world, Terry would sit for another season behind a veteran. Unfortunately, the Sooners don't have that luxury.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, True Freshman
Lamb joins Marquise Brown and Charleston Rambo to form one of the most formidable groups of receiver recruits in the nation this year. Like Brown, Lamb should get a chance to make a name for himself from the jump.
Given Lamb’s height and ball skills, the upperclassmen manning the outside receiver spots need to consider themselves on notice.
Levi Draper, LB, True Freshman
The aforementioned dearth of bodies at inside linebacker will likely force Draper into action in his first year on campus. The highly touted in-state product possesses the skill set to thrive against the wide-open offenses of the Big 12, but that's a tall order for a true freshman.
As an early enrollee, Draper may benefit from spring practice reps more than any other player on the roster. He also needs the extra time in the weight room under strength coach Jerry Schmidt.
Marcelias Sutton, RB, Junior College Transfer
With Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon off to the NFL, OU is looking for the right combination of runners to fit the demands of Lincoln Riley's respect-the-run variant of the Air Raid. Riley bragged on Sutton's explosiveness during OU's National Signing Day event, suggesting there might be a role for the Lackawanna (Penn.) College product catching passes out of the backfield or motioning out wide. We’ll get a better idea after spring ball.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.