“We intend to play all of them,” Stoops said. “Come game week, we’ll see who ends up in the game and who doesn’t.”
The Sooners open their season at UTEP on Sept. 1.
Oklahoma definitely seems poised to play a significant number of true freshmen this season, many more than it did in 2011.
Here are the 18 true freshmen in the class of 2012, listed alphabetically with a 0-10 number indicating their likelihood of redshirting, with 0 being least likely and 10 being most likely:
* Daniel Brooks, RB (10): Brooks is still rehabbing from a knee injury suffered while in high school.
* Ty Darlington, C (3): Darlington may have been a greater candidate to redshirt before season-ending injuries to starters Ben Habern and Tyler Evans. Now, after impressing coaches and teammates through summer workouts and fall camp, Darlington looks like he’ll probably be an important reserve for the interior of the offensive line, which is dangerously thin.
* Sam Grant, TE (8): Grissom, Green and McNamara are all ahead of Grant on the depth chart, so a redshirt seems probable.
* Trevor Knight, QB (10): Knight could end up being the Sooners’ starting quarterback someday, but with Blake Bell, Drew Allen and Kendal Thompson all backing up Landry Jones, Knight’s 2012 season is best spend redshirting.
* Kyle Marrs, OG (6): Injuries and John Michael McGee’s departure have elevated Marrs from an almost-certain redshirt season to the possibility of playing some in relief duty. He still is more likely to redshirt than not, I would say, but he’s certainly not out of the mix.
* Taylor McNamara, TE (2): Geneo Grissom’s move to tight end and elevation to the starting role probably leaves McNamara as the Sooners’ third tight end as of now, but he still has better pass-catching abilities than either Grissom or junior Brannon Green. A redshirt seems unlikely, even if Grissom and Green remain the solid top two on the depth chart.
* Trey Metoyer, WR (0): Metoyer is the most obvious “won’t redshirt” true freshman to arrive in Norman since Adrian Peterson in 2004. He’s all but assured to start and looks like he’ll be a superstar.
* Durron Neal, WR (5): Neal’s redshirt or non-redshirt season depends entirely on the status of Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders; if Saunders’ waiver is denied by the NCAA and he has to sit out this year, Neal won’t redshirt. But if Saunders is allowed to play, it probably crowds the receiver depth chart up too much and squeezes Neal out for this season.
* Michael Onuoha, DE (6): Onuoha was someone I fully expected to redshirt back when he signed out of Edmond Santa Fe. He’s a tremendously talented prospect with huge upside, but still seemed raw after essentially playing just one high school season. But his long arms and quickness have made him stand out during fall camp, so much so that he could find his way on the field. Tapper sounds like he’s gained an advantage between the two, so Onuoha may end up redshirting anyway. Either way, this is the player in the Sooners’ class of 2012 to watch as he develops, because, while he’s a project now, he could develop into a star.
* Alex Ross, RB (4): Ross’ big plays during fall camp and in scrimmages has caught the eyes of coaches, who may decide he’s too talented and valuable right now to redshirt. He could contribute in the return game, and even could see some carries.
* Zack Sanchez, CB (6): Sanchez could still possibly work his way into the cornerback rotation this year, but he’s definitely behind fellow true freshman Gary Simon.
* Sterling Shepard, WR (1): Shepard, the former Heritage Hall standout, looked like he would take Ryan Broyles’ place as the Sooners’ starting slot receiver before Justin Brown arrived from Penn State and forced a lineup rearrangement. Still, Shepard could help return kicks, and will certainly still see playing time in the slot.
* Gary Simon, CB (1): Simon was at a disadvantage because he didn’t arrive on campus until after summer workouts, but he had a solid camp and seems to have possibly impressed his way into being a top reserve for starting corners Demontre Hurst and Aaron Colvin.
* David Smith, RB (9): With all the Sooner backs, including Ross and junior-college transfer Damien Williams, fighting for carries behind Dominique Whaley, Brennan Clay, Trey Millard and Roy Finch, Smith seems a probable candidate to redshirt.
* Eric Striker, LB (2): Striker has been impressive with his toughness and strength, which led position coach Tim Kish to say that, despite the depth at Striker’s position, coaches have “no intention whatsoever of redshirting him.” Expect him to contribute on special teams.
* Charles Tapper, DE (1): Tapper and fellow true freshman Michael Onuoha have each impressed coaches through fall camp, but Tapper seems to have pulled ahead and, with David King’s move inside, possibly earned himself a spot in the two-deep.
* Jordan Wade, DT (9): Even with Stacy McGee’s indefinite suspension, there are too many tackles ahead of Wade for him to make an impact this season.
* Derrick Woods, WR (9): Woods is far behind his fellow wideouts on the depth chart right now, so a redshirt season seems the best thing for him.