I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say #SoonerSquad17 is on fire... and I can barely keep up! OU could potentially have a top-five class once National Signing Day has come and gone, and 11 of those commits are officially enrolled and have already started classes in the great college town of Norman, Oklahoma. The focus, maturity and work ethic of these youngsters makes me feel like a complete jackass. Even now, especially in my jaded adulthood, just thinking about essay tests, group projects, research papers and ECON(Ahhh!) makes my head hurt. So, with humility and without reservation, I just have to give props to these kids who leave high school halfway through their senior year and skip their last summer as carefree teenagers to launch head-first into the gauntlet of student-athlete life months ahead of most of their peers. Getting a head start in the classroom and on the practice field means a head start at playing time for a national title contender.
Early enrollment has always offered an inside track to earn early playing time while getting the hang of student-athlete life before everyone else shows up during the summer. We’re all used to seeing one, two or maybe a handful of guys enroll early. But having this high a number of early birds already on campus gives fans even more excitement about the great things that can be expected from the 2017 class heading into next season.
Here’s an early outlook for each early enrollee.
Justin Broiles - Defensive Back | 6-0 | 180, Oklahoma City, Okla. (John Marshall HS)
The four-star cornerback from the City has a great shot to earn playing time in the secondary, especially considering the latest news on Parrish Cobb. The spot opposite Jordan Thomas will likely be a carousel for the second year in a row, but Broiles shows good technique and playmaking skills. Slightly smaller than Jordan Parker, he also shows solid speed and instincts that comes with the pedigree of a potential starter, and spurned the likes of Auburn, Michigan and Texas to stay and star for his in-state team.
Marquise Brown - Wide Receiver | 5-11 | 175, Hollywood, Fla. (South Broward HS)/College of the Canyons (Calif.)
Pretty safe to say the Sooner Nation is damn excited about Marquise Brown, and for ample reason. Possibly a carbon copy of Dede with the jukes and moves of a one Ryan Broyles (I know, getting way ahead of myself), it’s clear the JUCO standout comes in with game-breaking potential. Coming in with the experience and maturity of an upperclassman, fans can look forward to seeing him line up in the slot next season and contributing right away, a la Jalen Saunders in 2012. Oh, and think of the months this kid has to build rapport with Baker the Touchdown Maker...
Grant Calcaterra - Tight End | 6-4 | 220, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. (Santa Margarita Catholic HS)
As OU’s offensive scheme now seems to favor less a traditional tight end and more a hybrid receiver that an athlete like Mark Andrews typifies, the No. 2 player at the position nationally according to ESPN is a goldmine get for Lincoln Riley. Calcaterra is almost as tall as Andrews but will need to add some weight to his frame. He does look to have the speed and athleticism to fill the role rather well, though. As OU’s receiving core will be loaded next season, it may be another year before we see Calcaterra get any meaningful time on the field. But this extended offseason in the weight room and learning from Baker and Andrews will do wonders for a very promising prospect.
Levi Draper – Inside Linebacker | 6-3 | 225, Collinsville, Okla. (Collinsville HS)
Oh Levi, Norman can’t wait. With the departure of Jordan Evans and OU rumored to be switching back to the 4-3 scheme, an inside linebacker like Draper — ESPN’s No. 2 ILB in the country — looks to be in line to take over the great tradition established by the many legends at the position through the Stoops era. Comparisons to Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Rufus Alexander and Ryan Reynolds are inevitable, and for the most part, justified. The size and skill set are certainly there for this kid, whom I expect to emerge as a leader in this unit in the next couple of years. With the addition of the highly touted Draper and what OU already has in place on the outside, the Sooners linebacker core will be fearsome for years to come.
Addison Gumbs – Outside Linebacker/Defensive End | 6-3 | 215, Hayward, Calif. (Stellar Prep HS)
Gumbs is one pumped Sooner. The love this kid shows OU on Twitter hints at him ready to be a vocal, energetic presence in the locker room and on the field. Gumbs, primarily a weak side pass rusher, will have the luxury of sitting behind and learning from two of the conference’s best in Obo Okoronkwo and Caleb Kelly, as well as playmaker Kapri Doucet. As Obo took Kelly under his wing through last season, it may be Kelly doing the same with fellow Cali boy Gumbs. With his great size and outstanding quickness to wreak havoc, Gumbs has the skill to make an impact early despite the depth at the position. As Will Johnson could (and should) be moved to safety, I expect Gumbs to be part of the two-deep by mid-season. And the emergence of Gumbs would provide Obo and Kelly with a few breathers, giving Mike Stoops a potentially lethal pass-rushing rotation by season’s end.
Jeremiah Hall - Fullback | 6-3 | 230, Charlotte, N.C. (Zebulon B. Vance HS)
The next in line of OU’s athletic, versatile fullbacks in Lincoln Riley’s scheme is Hall, a consensus three-star recruit with the potential to fill a Dimitri Flowers/Trey Millard-like role. Recruited as a hybrid tight end/H-Back type, expect Riley to get creative with this kid’s skill set that includes excellent pass-catching potential out of the backfield and versatility to line up in multiple sets and formations all over the field. Hall likely won’t see before significant playing time right away but as the theme of this story goes, to the early bird likely goes early playing time. Hall could be an unsung but exciting player to watch, a la Flowers, for years to come once he develops and acclimates to his role.
Creed Humphrey - Offensive Lineman | 6-4 | 290, Shawnee, Okla. (Shawnee HS)
Touted as the No. 3 center in the country by 247Sports, ESPN and Scout, the mammoth in-state stud Humphrey will soon be plowing defenders over and anchoring the Sooners’ deep and beastly offensive line. Already looking the part of D1 starter, the Texas A&M decommit made the best decision of his life to stay in state. It’s a fact. Sooners > Aggies. You can ask anyone. Even with the logjam on the deep and talented OU offensive line, Humphrey looks too good and game-ready to keep off the field for long. Oh, and he’s probably going to put on at least another 10-15 pounds of muscle before August even hits. Yikes.
Kenneth Murray - Outside Linebacker | 6-3 | 215, Missouri City, Texas (Elkins HS)
Choosing Oklahoma over Texas A&M, Texas and Michigan among others, the three-star Murray adds another name and more promise to the growing powerhouse that is the Oklahoma linebacker unit. At the time he committed, the main concern was his size, but after putting on an extra 10 pounds following a stellar senior season could challenge for some playing time along with Gumbs from the start. The two could form a bond through this early period and learning from the aforementioned Okoronkwo, Kelly and Doucet, could become true leaders at the position.
Chris Robison - Quarterback | 6-2 | 190, Mesquite, Texas (Horn HS)
Get excited, Sooner Nation. If there ever could be another potential Baker Mayfield, it appears Bobby Stoops has found him. Standing slightly taller and possessing the same attitude and confidence as OU’s record-setting signal caller, Chris Robison put the nation on blast all season with his play, and after being snubbed from the Under Armour game:
He has the arm and intangibles to back it up. Some of the plays this kid made in high school are just incredible. Lincoln Riley found a gem in Robison, whom I expect to be the OU’s starting quarterback following Baker’s graduation to the NFL after next season. The Sooners are looking especially strong at the position. Behind Robison is also 2018 commit Cameron Rising, who looks good enough to possibly challenge for the starting job as a true freshman once he finally arrives. But the gunslinger from Mesquite seems poised for the challenge. The future is bright at quarterback for years to come. We just have to get used to his, umm, quirkiness.
Oklahoma commit Chris Robison from wayyy downtown! https://t.co/2nRgQpPBtY— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) April 6, 2016
Trey Sermon - Running Back | 6-1 | 220, Marietta, Ga. (Sprayberry HS)
Coming in as the top running back in this class, expect the dynamic, four-star Georgia product Trey Sermon to make an immediate impact in the backfield. Following the departures of all-timers Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, Sermon has the makings of a feature back right from the get-go and with a healthy Rodney Anderson back on the field, could be a major part of OU’s running game behind an experienced, extremely deep offensive line. Although Abdul Adams will also be a part of the mix as a change-of-pace, Sermon, along with JUCO product Marcelias Sutton (detailed below), certainly boost the Sooners’ depth in the backfield immediately.
Marcelias Sutton - Running Back | 5-10 | 195, La Grange, N.C. (James Kenan HS)/Lackawanna College (Pa.)
Rated the No. 2 JUCO running back by ESPN and No. 2 athlete by 247Sports, fans can also expect the game-ready Sutton to see the field soon, if not immediately, come next fall. Not heavily recruited out of high school in North Carolina, going the junior college route has seemed to really benefit the shifty back, as he comes in with more maturity and expectations to contribute from the start while the true freshman get used to playing at the next level. With the Perine-Mixon era a thing of the past, the opportunities for carries are ripe for the taking for any of the new guys ready to step up. As Anderson and Adams enter the offseason likely having the inside track to first-team snaps, the talent and skill set of Sutton and Sermon will likely be a part of the mix right away.