NORMAN — Quentin Hayes is Oklahoma's starting strong safety. Trey Franks changed positions and might be in line for playing time next season.
Sophomore Durron Neal called Jaz Reynolds the “big brother” and “backbone” of the Sooners' wide receiver group.
Hayes, Franks and Reynolds — all coming off year-long suspensions for unspecified team rules violations — have made progress toward returning to OU coaches' good graces entering the 2013 season.
“I don't worry about it,” Reynolds said in January. “I'm completely not worried about next season. I'm pretty sure I'll be out there like normal.”
Reynolds, a senior, was OU's third-leading receiver in 2011, when he caught 41 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns. Franks, a junior, was Oklahoma's top kick returner in 2011 and also caught 22 passes for 196 yards.
But last May, OU coach Bob Stoops announced that the trio, along with receiver Kameel Jackson, had been indefinitely suspended. Jackson was eventually dismissed and transferred, first to Louisiana-Monroe, then to Blinn Junior College in Texas, where he's working on his grades.
“Jaz being a fifth-year senior, he just teaches us a lot about the offense, what needs to be done and how things are ran,” Neal said. “He knows the playbook inside and out.”
If Reynolds has indeed turned the corner, he'll definitely have an opportunity to earn playing time in 2013. Oklahoma's two leading receivers from last season, Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, are both gone, and the top returning receivers, Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard, are both better suited to play inside.
“It's day-to day with Jaz,” said co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who coaches receivers. “He's had a really good spring and he's been very accountable, and I just told him, ‘If you had the spring you had two years ago, you're going to have a great year.' So far he's done that and he needs to continue.”
Midway through last season, Franks moved to defensive back. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said he's working behind senior Gabe Lynn at free safety.
Hayes appeared in eight games in 2011, his redshirt freshman year, and recorded three tackles. He's impressed coaches enough to be the No. 1 strong safety at this point, but true freshman Ahmad Thomas — an early enrollee — is already making a name for himself through spring practices.
“Q's a very good player,” junior nickelback Julian Wilson said of Hayes. “Whatever incidents have happened in the past, that's the past. He's matured and grown up as a man. He's ready to make an impact this year and put all that other stuff behind him.”