NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — If Bob Stoops had his way, the practice of redshirting incoming freshmen to save them for later would be scrapped at Oklahoma.
He’d rather have his freshmen contribute right away for the seventh-ranked Sooners.
“I believe that the quality of players we’re getting, they’re not going to be here for that fifth year,” Stoops said. “And they’re better players in their second year, maybe when we need them more, having played even a little bit in their first year.”
Stoops’ crop of first-year players this season have him keeping those redshirts in the closet more than ever.
Nickel back Tony Jefferson, cornerback Aaron Colvin and linebacker Corey Nelson could all get playing time on defense, and Kenny Stills leads a trio of receivers trying to break into the rotation. Trey Millard made such an impact in his first few weeks of practice that he’s set to start at fullback.
“I’ve been saying it over and over, this is a really good class and these guys are really good players,” Stoop said.
The Sooners aren’t the only ones with freshmen who could make an immediate impact.
Here are some Big 12 freshmen to watch:
Mike Davis, WR, Texas: Does Longhorns coach Mack Brown need to say much more than this about the Dallas native? “Mike is a very confident young man. When he walks in the room he knows he’s good.” He’s among a higher number of freshmen Brown plans to play this season coming off of a loss in the BCS championship game, including defensive linemen Reggie Wilson and Jackson Jeffcoat, the son of ex-Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat.
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: Coach Mike Gundy first noticed the speedy Huntsville, Texas, native toward the end of his sophomore year in high school, then got an early commitment and anxiously waited to get him signed. “His highlight tape went on for about an hour,” Gundy recalls. He’s already had an 80-yard punt return TD in a preseason scrimmage.
Jake Matthews, OL, Texas A&M: The son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews certainly has the pedigree to be a force and he’s been practicing with the Aggies’ starters in his first training camp. “He’s a very talented young man who works really hard. He’s a tough kid and very physical,” coach Mike Sherman said. He started high school as a quarterback but moved up front now that he’s 6-foot-5 and 295 pounds. His brother, Kevin, was A&M’s starting center the past two seasons.
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado: Richardson initially signed with UCLA, where his father played receiver, before being dismissed along with two other players after they were accused of stealing at a campus dormitory. Saying he’s trying to “redeem myself,” he was cleared to play at Colorado just before training camp and quickly moved up the depth chart in a new-look receiving corps that also includes transfers from Southern Cal and Michigan.
Chase Rome, DT, Nebraska: With No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh gone to the NFL, the Cornhuskers have Jared Crick back to cause trouble for offenses. Rome could join him. He graduated early from Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge High School in time to go through winter conditioning and spring practice. Now, coach Bo Pelini says, “he’s showing that he has a possibility of being a factor.”
Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma: Lightning fast, Stills joins Joe Powell and Trey Franks as part of a freshman invasion in an Oklahoma receiving corps that was disappointing a year ago. “It’s a completely different attitude. We’ve got guys that like to have fun and that are aggressive,” receivers coach Jay Norvell said. “They don’t back off from anybody, they’re not intimidated, and I think it’s great.” Stills emerged in the spring as a potential threat and has continued to impress.
Honorable mentions: Baylor WR Levi Woodson, Iowa State RB Duran Hollis, Kansas DE Keba Agostinho, Missouri OLs Mitch Morse and Nick Demien, Nebraska WR Quincy Enunwa, Texas Tech RB Ben McRoy.