Going into every season, there are always a handful of players who receive a large amount of attention, and justifiably so. This year, guys like Kyler Murray, Rodney Anderson, Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and even true freshman Brendan Radley-Hiles will have all eyes on them from the moment they step onto Owen Field.
On the flip side, there are also players who tend to fly under the radar entering a season. Last season, Trey Sermon, Parnell Motley and Amani Bledsoe ended up producing above and beyond expectations when their numbers were called. So which guys could fall into that category as this season’s under-the-radar impact players for the Oklahoma Sooners? We all know about CREEEEEEED Humphrey, but let’s talk about six others.
Kennedy Brooks - RS FR running back
In high school, Kennedy Brooks accumulated an absurd 7,658 rushing yards and 96 touchdowns on 885 carries. The Mansfield, Texas native was the absolute definition of a workhorse back, but after suffering a shoulder injury just weeks before the beginning of the 2017 season, Brooks was forced to redshirt.
First of all, Oklahoma’s running back depth chart is loaded with talent, as usual. With Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon back in the fold, it’ll be tough for anyone to find a ton of opportunities. Still, if anyone is going to be that third guy, Brooks has as good a shot as anybody. This past April, Brooks showed off some ability in the spring game. Barring any more setbacks, keep an eye out for No. 26 this fall. This cat can tote the rock.
Charleston Rambo - RS FR wide reciever
In the 2017 recruiting cycle, Oklahoma welcomed in three new wide receivers. CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown both made major impacts on the team last season, while Charleston Rambo redshirted. Even with Oklahoma’s talented and now experienced receiving corps, Rambo is right up there with the rest of them ability-wise.
The Cedar Hill native possesses decent height at 6’1”, and he has a quickness to his game that Riley will love to utilize in his offense. Rambo has also made a strong impression with his coaches and teammates after being honored as one of the scout team players of the year. Don’t sleep on Rambo — the guy with arguably the coolest name on the team — to make some noise this fall. Will he make an impact on the slot in 2018, or will he get more work outside? The sky is the limit either way.
Jaquayln Crawford - FR wide receiver
Jaquayln Crawford arrived in Norman as an early-enrollee, so he’s been in the program for about six months. Throughout spring ball, Crawford stood out as one of the young guys who could conceivably earn playing time as a true freshman. From his stature and style of play, he’s very much in the mold of a slot receiver, but Oklahoma has never really shied away from playing the little guys out wide.
Plain and simple, Crawford has elite-level potential as a playmaker. He’s not the biggest guy on the field, but he creates his own space with blazing quickness. For good measure, Crawford also has above-average top-end speed. His versatility as a returner could also increase his playing opportunities, especially if he proves to be an impact player. Lincoln Riley loves being able to call upon someone with Crawford’s ability, so don’t be surprised if No. 17 is out there as early as this September doing things like this:
Tre Brown - SO cornerback
There are a few players on Oklahoma’s roster as electric as Tre Brown. With Parnell Motley all but a lock to play one CB spot and Tre Norwood in decent position to start at the other, Brown could still see the field quite a bit as a sophomore. A solid rotation has to be established (especially in the pass-happy Big 12), and when Brown had his number called last season, he showed what he brings to the table.
Brown may not have the prototypical height for a 21st-century CB, but he plays a physical and aggressive brand of football that makes up for that and then some. He has the ability to separate a receiver from the ball, and to disrupt a reception before it can be established. After being thrust into the fire as a true freshman, I expect the game to move even slower for Brown, and in turn, I could easily see him becoming a reliable playmaker in the Sooners’ secondary.
Mark Jackson Jr. - JR D-end/linebacker (JACK)
Mark Jackson has played in 18 games over his first two seasons for a total of nine tackles and one sack (which came against J.T. Barrett in Columbus). With a grown man named Ogbonnia Okoronkwo holding down the starting JACK position over the last two seasons, Jackson had to make the most of his opportunities when his number was called.
This season, I fully expect to see much more of Jackson on the field. In the spring of 2018, he saw action at both the JACK and SAM positions, but his skill set and body type obviously favor snaps at the former (with the better fit for the latter position being the next guy on the list). Size wise, Jackson is built like a wrecking ball, but it remains to be seen where his motor stacks up against the likes of an Ogbo. If it’s anything close to the Los Angeles Ram, Jackson could flourish in the JACK role in 2018. Could he edge out Addison Gumbs for snaps at the position? That remains to be seen.
Ryan Jones - RS FR linebacker (SAM)
Out of all the potential under-the-radar players, I think I am most fascinated with Ryan Jones. First things first — Jones is one hell of an athlete, pure and simple. He began his career at Oklahoma as a wide receiver, then he moved to safety, and now’s he working with the linebacking corps.
So far, the 6’2”, 230 pound Charlotte native seems most at home at the SAM position. With Caleb Kelly moving over from SAM to WILL this season, the opportunity is there for Jones to win the starting job. Even if Jones isn’t named a starter right away, I expect to see a lot of Jones on the field this season. Like Riley said, a guy with Jones’ athleticism and size is intriguing. Watch out for No. 33, folks. He could be special.
Asked Riley about Ryan Jones. Moves from WR to DB now to OLB, but maybe can make impact for #Sooners? 'Any time a guy with that athleticism can get big enough, it's intriguing.'— Bob Przybylo (@BPrzybylo) March 8, 2018
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