NORMAN — Freshman are just not what they used to be.
In contemporary college football, youth matters not. High school offenses are sophisticated enough now that first-year players have all the mental preparedness to play right away. Offseason 7-on-7 camps and the emphasis on chunk yardage in the passing game mean young quarterbacks and receivers are routinely delivered to the college campus ready to contribute.
On Oklahoma’s depth chart released Thursday, all three of the Sooners’ 5-star wide receivers — Trejan Bridges, Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease — as well as 4-star tight end Austin Stogner have earned a spot.
In playcalling wonderboy Lincoln Riley’s offense, the rich most definitely have gotten richer.
“They have something to prove,” said junior wideout CeeDee Lamb. “And I feel like, yes, I am confident in them guys. They’ve worked their tails off from spring up until now. Very great fall camp they’ve had together.”
Bridges is 6-foot-1, 184 pounds and was rated a 5-star prospect by Rivals out of Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas. Haselwood is 6-2, 206 and a consensus 5-star and was ranked the No. 1 receiver in the country at Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Georgia. Stogner is 6-6, 237 and a consensus 4-star recruit at Prestonwood Christian School in Plano, Texas. And Wease is 6-2, 202, and was a Rivals and 247Sports 5-starat Allen High School in Allen, Texas.
All four enrolled in the winter semester, all four participated in spring practice, and all four are, apparently, ready to play when the Sooners hit the field Sunday night against Houston.
And they’ll have a good teacher in Lamb, a two-time All-Big 12 honoree who has 111 career receptions, 1,965 yards and 18 touchdown catches in his first two seasons.
Lamb was asked to examine where the incoming class of wideouts stand compared to where he stood his freshman season.
“They’re more advanced,” Lamb said. “I didn’t really have a … mentor, if you will, someone that can tell me what to expect. … For them, I can be their mentor and I can help them prepare mentally for what to expect in a game.”
The youngsters will have plenty of mentors on this year’s team, but maybe none more accomplished than the guy throwing the football to them: quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts’ exploits in three seasons at Alabama are well documented, and he played with some remarkably talented pass catchers, including last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner, Jerry Jeudy.
Hurts, however, was reluctant to anoint any of the freshmen just yet.
“I’ll be able to tell you that,” he said, “after we play a game.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.