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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Did OU find a hidden gem in the form of Tre Norwood?

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The underrated cornerback from Arkansas has emerged as a surprise performer among the talented freshman class.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tre Norwood from Arkansas, right? Yeah, man, he’s good. He’s a really good player, man. He’s got a lot of swagger about him. He may be skinny, but he’s got a lot of swagger about him. I like his game.” - Orlando Brown

This is what we heard from Orlando Brown during Big 12 Media Days. Brown was asked which guys on the defense have stood out so far, and along with Du’Vonta Lampkin, Kenneth Murray and Parnell Motley, Brown surprisingly named freshman cornerback Tre Norwood from Fort Smith, Arkansas, among the emerging players on defense.

“Tre Norwood, he’s done great. He’s a guy that’s put himself in a situation to where he can really play. He has the potential to start. The secondary is so hungry, everybody’s trying to get on the field and Tre Norwood’s one of those guys. And Tre Brown and Robert Barnes, those are all freshmen who’ve all made a great impact.” - Steven Parker

Quite unlikely for one of the least ballyhooed recruits in #SoonerSquad17, but the young Norwood has been catching the eyes and attention of an All-American tackle, a star safety and most likely the rest of his teammates so far into his young collegiate career. Committing to OU back in late January, the three-star defensive back appeared to be a work in progress and was probably expected to see the field a little later than some of his more touted counterparts Tre Brown and Justin Broiles. The talent and speed has always been there, but the thin-framed Norwood was thought by many to be a year or two away from legitimately competing for playing time.

But without the buzz that Brown and Broiles generated all season, Norwood has the advantage of stepping in and showing out when no one really expected him to, at least not this soon. And so far, he’s delivered. From what we’re hearing, Norwood — a true darkhorse candidate with a solid chance to break into the secondary this fall — could be one of the most treasured gems in a signing class full of diamonds.

As Orlando alluded to, despite his size and inexperience, Norwood has been earning respect on the field with his speed, playmaking abilities and attitude. And the captain of the secondary, Steven Parker, was all praise and seems to already expect big things from his young teammate.

We all know the OU secondary could use a little more swagger. As Parnell Motley displayed in the spring game, there is some real talent waiting to see the field in Lincoln Riley’s first year as head coach behind Jordan Thomas and last season’s eventual starter Jordan Parker. While Parker emerged last season as a solid contributor, he couldn’t quite nail down the position as his own, allowing the athletic and instinctive Motley to make a name for himself and emerge this spring as maybe the top guy to start opposite All-Conference performer Thomas.

You can see Tre Norwood’s track speed and agility on display in his game film, but as we heard during Big 12 Media Days, the skinny freshman plays bigger than he looks and with “a lot of swagger”. To have the instinct and smarts to make the play, especially when coming a fresh-faced rookie while the defense installs a new system, Norwood is already showing why Kerry Cooks continued his pursuit of the DB last winter, landing his under-the-radar commitment with a week left before National Signing Day.

If the Oklahoma Sooners secondary gets any production from the young guys like Broiles or Brown coming in, the benefits could be monumental, as both Motley and Parker possess the talent to develop into a solid Big 12 starter opposite the proven Thomas. But who knows? Tre Norwood could be the unlikely candidate to step up to a star level ahead of his more touted fellow 2017 classmates.