"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.”
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