First-year head coach Brent Venables offered a preliminary look at the depth chart Monday for the Oklahoma Sooners ahead of their season-opening game against the UTEP Miners.
How about some knee-jerk reactions?
*Not many surprises on this side of the ball. For example, Davis Beville won the job as backup quarterback, as expected. Perhaps it qualifies as an upset to see no OR between Eric Gray and Marcus Major at running back, though. That points to a belief on the part of offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby that Gray’s versatility in the passing game brings a needed dimension to OU’s attack.
*Sticking with the RB room, it looks like freshmen Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuck still have work to do. Barnes’ health may have prevented him from claiming the third line all to himself.
*It might be useful to think about the listings for the offensive line group as a short-term situation. For instance, the depth chart lists Savion Byrd as McKade Mettauer’s understudy at left guard, along with Brey Walker, while freshman Jake Taylor sits behind Wanya Morris at right tackle. However, if Morris goes down for an extended period of time due to injury, OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh would almost assuredly look at Byrd or Tyler Guyton as the long-term answer there.
In the short run, though, Bedenbaugh has to have players like Taylor prepared to fill in immediately in case of emergency.
*With freshman receiver Jayden Gibson already running with the second string, Theo Wease better stay on top of his game.
*Things are far more intriguing on D. In general, OU will field a much beefier defense than a year ago. The defensive linemen have put on weight across the board, but note that the first-team inside linebackers are checking in at 250 and 240 pounds.
*First, talk during preseason camp about Jalen Redmond struggling to stay healthy appears legitimate. That’s the best explanation for listing him as a co-starter with Jordan Kelley at defensive tackle.
Redmond could potentially be an elite disruptor on the interior, so keeping him in the mix has to be a priority for defensive line coach Todd Bates.
*Stock way up for freshman edge R Mason Thomas. That OR between his name and upperclassmen Jonah Laulu and Marcus Stripling at defensive end speaks volumes about the coaching staff’s estimations of his abilities.
On the flip side, it feels disappointing not to see Clayton Smith’s name on the list. From a physical standpoint, he can bring something to this defense as a pass rusher that no other player on the roster can. He has yet to unlock his full potential, apparently.
*I recently wrote about OU’s options at the Cheetah position, which is a linebacker-safety hybrid. If White is running with the first team there, it hints that Venables may roll out a 3-3-3 look early in the year. That would take a member of the DL off the field, with White playing SAM LB.
It also might account for listing Key Lawrence and Justin Broiles as co-starters at free safety. Along with Justin Harrington, Broiles seems like an obvious candidate to play the third safety in a three-high scheme. (Alternatively, the coaching staff may be trying to motivate Lawrence.)
*That wasn’t smoke being blown about Jaden Davis this month. The veteran won a starting spot across from Woodi Washington at cornerback. In fact, incumbent starter D.J. Graham is backing up Washington, a sign that Davis’ drip on his job is pretty secure. You have to think the late start of Wyoming transfer C.J. Coldon with the squad hurt his chances to compete at CB right away.