NORMAN — During its 64-0 rout of Idaho State, Oklahoma produced three highlights in the second half. A Marcus Trice blocked punt. A Ronnell Lewis safety. A Jonathan Miller 36-yard touchdown scamper. All plays made by true freshmen. Two games into the season, OU has enjoyed quite the infusion of talented true freshmen into its offense, defense and special teams. So far, true freshmen Trice, Lewis, Miller, guard Tyler Evans, defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland, linebacker Jaydan Bird, cornerback Demontre Hurst and strong safety Javon Harris have all seen the field. That doesn’t include linebacker Tom Wort, who was going to play before tearing an ACL, and wide receiver Jaz Reynolds, who could still avoid redshirt and play this week against Tulsa. "We did anticipate playing a good number of them,” coach Bob Stoops said of his freshman class. "But we’re not going to play them if they’re not prepared for it and we don’t feel like they’re going to play at a level we expect. "They’re responding really well.” Stoops playing true freshmen is nothing new. In 2002, the Sooners used nine, including wide receiver Travis Wilson, lineman Davin Joseph and safety Brodney Pool. "I have always believed if a guy is able to play as a freshman, even if it is in smaller amounts, he is more prepared to play next year when you need him to play more, or when you need him to start maybe,” Stoops said. Yet in 2007, Stoops didn’t play one freshman. Last season, only six saw action. But this year, eight — and counting depending on Reynolds — have earned their way onto the field. Part of that is due to OU’s depth issues at certain positions. But a lot has to do with how this freshman class performed during the preseason and through the first two weeks of the season. "You have to make sure it merits them playing,” said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "But we’ve always felt like it helps in backup play and special teams.” Both Hurst and Trice have been a boost to a special teams unit that struggled across the board last season. Trice, also OU’s third safety in nickel packages, owns the blocked punt, while Hurst has recorded three tackles in kickoff coverage already. "I’m pretty surprised I’ve gotten to play,” Hurst said. "I didn’t know what to expect coming in. But I came out and worked hard and earned a spot.” Both McFarland and Lewis are pushing for spots in their respective defensive rotations. "I’m very impressed with Jamarkus, he’s further along than anyone I’ve seen since I’ve been here, as far as a true freshman,” said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. "Ronnell, he’s a headhunter.” But as impressive as the first-year defenders have been, the lone true freshman to start is Evans, just a three-star recruit coming out of a small town in Missouri. "Tyler really showed up in the preseason, it was just a matter of gaining confidence so you can trust him to go out and play,” Wilson said. "After the first game, it was like, ‘Hey, let’s play him and get him up to speed.’ "If a guy earns it, you get him out there and get him going.” Text "Sooners” to 65360 for your chance to win a Gameday Tailgating Package. OU news text updates from NewsOK sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts.
No. 12 Oklahoma vs. Tulsa→When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday →Where: Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium →TV: FSN (Cox 37) →Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7
ON NEWSOK.COM→Join us at 11 a.m. today for a live chat with OU beat writer David Ubben. We’ll also be doing a chat on Friday at 11 a.m. with columnist Berry Tramel. →Check out photo galleries from the Sooners’ first two games at NewsOK.com/multimedia/sports/