Dillon Gabriel. Danny Stutsman. Woodi Washington.
You’ve probably heard of these guys. They’re going to play key roles in the Oklahoma Sooners’ upcoming season. You can watch them during Saturday’s Red-White Game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
You also won’t learn much if you focus all your attention on the known commodities during the annual intra-squad scrimmage. Instead, here are 10 players – five on each side of the ball – you should watch in hopes of getting a feel for how they’ve developed this spring. All could grow into contributors before the 2023 season ends.
QB Jackson Arnold
The crown jewel of OU’s 2023 recruiting class, Arnold will likely spend from now until the end of the year preparing to take the reins at quarterback from Dillon Gabriel in 2024. For now, Saturday will offer fans an opportunity to evaluate if Arnold can handle the second-team role this season. Also, does he have noticeable chemistry with any of the younger receivers?
WR Nic Anderson
Speaking of younger receivers, OU is lacking for targets who can match the frame of redshirt freshman Nic Anderson at 6-4, 209 pounds. The Sooners could use that kind of size to turn Anderson into a one-on-one mismatch in the middle of the field or downfield threat. Let’s see if he’s showing any signs of maturing this spring.
OL Cayden Green
With Stanford transfer Walter Rouse sitting out the spring to heal up from surgery, Green has seen an abundance of action at tackle in his first spring on campus. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh’s fondness for cross-training his charges raises the possibility that Green is audition for snaps at interior spots, too. OU will probably need the rookie sooner than later if he can prove himself useful across the OL.
OL Joshua Bates
The early buzz around Bates calls to mind talk about ex-center Creed Humphrey when he first started practicing with the Sooners. That’s a good sign, as the injury history of incumbent center Andrew Raym suggests OU will need someone else to snap the ball for at least a game or two at some point this year. We’ll get an idea of how Bates is adjusting to college ball this weekend.
RB Daylan Smothers
During last year’s Red-White Game, Jovantae Barnes offered a preview of what he could bring to OU’s ground attack in his rookie season. His absence from this year’s scrimmage means Smothers and fellow freshman Kalib Hicks will have ample opportunities to show off their talents in the backfield. After missing his senior year of high school, Smothers will try to show in his first game in front of a college crowd that he has knocked the rust off.
DB Kendel Dolby
A JUCO transfer from NEO, Dolby is the kind of player who has helped OU head coach Brent Venables build a reputation as top-tier evaluator. His physicality has apparently put him in the mix to start at cornerback opposite Washington. Members of the public will get their first look at how Dolby handles himself at this level.
DB Justin Harrington
OU fans are probably more familiar with Harrington than most of the players on this list due to the chatter from insiders about his play at practice. Now in his third season with the Sooners, Harrington’s performance on game days has poured cold water on the hype. In fact, he’s rarely even getting on the field.
Supposedly, Harrington is the frontrunner to play the Cheetah position. If true, maybe we’ll have a better idea of why after the scrimmage.
DL Jonah Laulu
Another familiar name, Laulu proved to be a useful five-tech defensive end last year after transferring from Hawaii. Can he handle the rigors of playing three-tech defensive tackle this season? Saturday will give us a chance to see how he’s acclimating at a position where the Sooners need Laulu to become a mainstay.
LB Kobie McKenzie
Weighing in at 243 pounds, McKenzie gives OU a different kind of body at inside linebacker. If linebackers coach Ted Roof decides he wants a thumper there this year, we’ll probably see the redshirt freshman McKenzie in the starting lineup. Let’s find out if there’s more to his game than just size.
DL Davon Sears
A transfer from Texas State doesn’t scream “impact player,” especially on the defensive line. Not to mention, he didn’t set the world on fire there. What is it about Sears that caught the eye of DL coach Todd Bates? (And can he play nose tackle?)