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OU Football 2013 - To Shirt Or Not To Shirt, That Is The Question

CCM puts together our annual predictions for which of the incoming class may redshirt during the coming season or who the Sooners could be counting on to play right away.

Oklahoma Sooners true freshman safety, Hatari Byrd
Oklahoma Sooners true freshman safety, Hatari Byrd

In the midst of summer workouts and with players due to officially report in a little under a month, we wanted to revisit something we did last year around this same time. With most of the incoming 2013 class already on campus, it's never too early to speculate on who may or may not redshirt. Last year, we did pretty well on our predictions so we figured why not turn this into an annual thing.

One thing to keep in mind when putting together something like this is Bob Stoops' somewhat unique approach to redshirting players. He's been quoted in the past as saying they only have the guys they sign for so long, so why not play them while you do. And when you see a guy like Tony Jefferson leave a year early and not even get drafted, it certainly lends credence to Stoops' stance on things.

The flip side of that coin however is how Stoops typically uses guys in these type of situations. Usually first year players who don't redshirt wind up playing mostly on special teams or in the very latest of closing seconds in games that are well in hand. One might ask how helpful that kind of experience actually is and whether that alone would be worth losing a year of eligibility, but we all know just how open Stoops is to being questioned.

Knowing all of that, some of these predictions might not look quite as odd as they might have without the reminder on Stoops.

ATH Dominique Alexander (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 10% | Listed as an "athlete", Alexander is expected to play linebacker for the Sooners. A position in which Oklahoma has very little depth, so whether he sees the field on defense (not very likely) or special teams (much more likely) he is the exact type of player we were referring to above.

CB Dakota Austin (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 95% | Much like linebacker, cornerback isn't a position of great depth either. However Austin really needs a year to bulk up and condition his body to play at this level.

P Jed Barnett (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 0% | You don't typically bring in a junior college punter to redshirt. Barnett struggled during the spring game, but all of Oklahoma's punters struggled that day. The winds in Norman take some getting used to, so all hope is not lost but he also won't just be handed the job either.

WR Austin Bennett (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 100% | OU's depth at receiver + Jalen Saunders & Sterling Shepard ahead of him at slot WR = Redshirt.

S Hatari Byrd (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 0% | The whispers about Byrd coming out of summer workouts have been overwhelmingly positive. Both safety spots are pretty much up for grabs and the expectation has always been that Byrd would be a strong contender for one. Don't be surprised if Byrd is starting by the Texas game, if not sooner.

WR Dannon Cavil (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 35% | The fact Cavil enrolled early obviously helps his chances of playing as a true freshman. The fact he's 6'5" doesn't hurt either. Oklahoma has been missing a big red zone target in years past and with his size Cavil could certainly fill that role for this team. As mentioned, Oklahoma has the depth at wide receiver they could afford to redshirt Cavil but his size might be too much for the coaches to ignore.

OT Christian Daimler (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 100% | Daimler is another guy who will need a year in a D-I strength program before he's truly read to play at this level.

DE Matt Dimon (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 0% | Dimon is a guy who has been expected to play as a true freshman since the day he officially signed with Oklahoma. He's the classic "high-motor" guy who is relentless in his pursuit of the football. He has the strength and athleticism to play as a true freshman and Oklahoma's lack of experience at the position only helps his chances.

LB Jordan Evans (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 45% | Evans is a guy that could play linebacker or eventually grow into a defensive end (or at least the type of undersized defensive ends Oklahoma tends to play). For that reason, it would make sense for the OU coaches to give him a year to develop but he could also waste play a year on special teams.

OG Andrew Feo (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 0% | After the loss of Tyler Evans and with the recurring injuries Adam Shead has dealt with the last two years, it wasn't a coincidence that Oklahoma went after Feo late in the recruiting process. Barring injuries he likely won't start this season, but he'll definitely play.

RB Keith Ford (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 5% | Three seniors ahead of him and three more redshirt freshman as well, but anybody remember how the coaches used the now former OU running back and five star recruit, Brandon Williams? Maybe there is an argument to be made against a redshirt considering those three seniors, but a year spent on special teams and/or with something like 25-30 meaningless carries seems like it would be a complete waste.

DT Kerrick Huggins (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt N/A | Unfortunately, Huggins became a grade casualty and will have to go the junior college route.

DB L.J. Moore (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 35% | Moore is a guy who could actually play safety or corner, which might actually make him a good fit for that nickel back spot Oklahoma is so fond of using. Like his high school and now college teammate Byrd, Moore comes to Norman with the expectation of early playing time. He is one of the small handful who has yet to arrive on campus (reportedly due to a previously planned family trip), so he will have some catching up to do once he does get here.

DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 50% | Of the three defensive ends Oklahoma signed in 2013, Okorokwo arguably has the highest ceiling. He's in a similar mold to Charles Tapper and Michael Onuoha who came in with the 2012 class, long and lean athletic basketball-type in football pads. While OU doesn't have a ton of depth or experience at defensive end, it's hard to see all three true freshman playing this year. Of the three, Okoronkwo is the most likely to redshirt in our opinion.

DT Matthew Romar (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 55% | Oklahoma has just three defensive tackles listed on their current roster, three (!!!). Granted, that does not include Chuka Ndulue who is moving inside from defensive end and Rashod Favors who originally signed with OU as a linebacker. But even still five guys is not enough, especially considering two of those five (Ndulue & Favors) are undersized, at best, for the position. By that logic, you would think Romar's odds would be lower. In a normal year his number would be at 100% given how raw he is as a prospect, but Oklahoma's lack of depth may force the issue earlier than the coaches would prefer.

DT Quincy Russell (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 0% (or N/A) | Well, where do we start with Russell. The short version is Oklahoma is incredibly desperate for a player at his position that could come in right away and play. However, Russell has yet to arrive in Norman and there are some who are skeptical whether or not he ever will. The reasons for his delay depend on the day and the OU message board you're reading them from, but whatever they may be the one constant right now is he's not on campus and he needs to be.

OG Dionte Savage (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 0% | There was one story floating around that one of the first days the team got together Savage quickly made his presence known (as if you'd miss a guy who is 6'5" 345 pounds) by shouting to his new teammates "Alright, whose job am I taking?" You have to admire the confidence, right? The big man could bring a toughness and/or attitude this OU offensive line has been missing in recent years.

WR Jordan Smallwood (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 55% | As previously mentioned, Oklahoma doesn't necessarily need a ton of help at wide receiver but the early word on Smallwood is he's been pretty impressive. He's never been a guy to just run by defenders, but he's an intelligent player who uses his strength and leaping ability to beat his man. While they are set inside at the slot, Oklahoma is looking for receivers who can consistently produce on the outside.

OT Josiah St. John (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 0% | The Sooners figure to be in good shape with Daryl Wiliams and Tyrus Thompson returning as starters, but St. John will be given an opportunity to beat them out. At a minimum, he'll be a guy heavily featured in the rotation at offensive tackle. That is assuming of course new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh continues to use a similar policy of playing multiple guys throughout the course of a game.

ATH Stanvon Taylor (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 40% | When he signed, many thought Mike Stoops' affinity for the Tulsa product would play in his favor to see the field as a true freshman. Taylor was recruited as a cornerback even though he never really played the position during his high school career. So it should come as no surprise that according to some he's struggled a bit with the transition to defense. He may prove to be too good of an athlete to keep off the field, but a year to learn the position wouldn't be a bad thing.

S Ahmad Thomas (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 0% | Whether he wins a starting spot as a true freshman (which some believe he may have already done) or playing in a backup role and seeing time on special teams, Thomas will be on the field in 2013.

QB Cody Thomas (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 100% | Even if he wasn't going to try to play both football and baseball, which he's remained adamant he will, the odds of Thomas playing his season were always going to be slim. Even with the fact Oklahoma is obviously transitioning to a new starter under center after the last four years with Landry Jones. Thomas is a guy in the mold of the other OU quarterbacks on campus, big arm with the ability to make plays outside the pocket, but it's virtually impossible to see him passing the three guys ahead of him on the depth chart.

DT Charles Walker (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 65% | Walker was a guy a lot of teams passed on because of his injury history, but when healthy his film is as impressive as just about any other defensive tackle in his class. Much like Romar above, in any other year he'd be allowed to redshirt but Oklahoma may not have that luxury this year. He had surgery on his shoulder several months ago, so as a result if the coaches have to choose you'd have to think Romar would be the first pick.

DE D.J. Ward (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 10% | Ward's story is not one you come across every day. After multiple transfers prior to his senior season, he was ruled ineligible and forced to sit out for what would have been his final high school season. He then enrolled early at Oklahoma, but the NCAA Clearinghouse (as they're wont to do) took their sweet time in clearing him and as a result he missed most of spring practice. By the time the season starts he won't have played football in almost two years, but the coaches love what he brings to the table and as we've mentioned the defensive end position is wide open this year.

WR KJ Young (VIDEO) | Chances of a Redshirt 70% | Pretty similar situation to Bennett above. Young is a guy projected to play the slot and OU is obviously set there heading into the season. The only reason this prediction isn't 100% like Bennett is, well to be honest it's personal bias. Young just makes so many plays on film he might be too good to keep off the field. That and while he would be ideal for the slot, he is capable of playing on the outside. So maybe OU plays him there some this year and then moves him back inside next year to pair with Shepard once Saunders moves on to the NFL.

So there you have it. For a class of 24 (not including Huggins), to have only eight guys listed on the plus side of a likely redshirt the Sooners could obviously be depending on quite a few first year players this season. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's not.

We'll obviously have to wait for the season to tell us that.