NORMAN — Nearly a dozen first-year players carved out key roles last season for the Oklahoma football team. Some even became starters.
This year, though, there are much fewer openings on Oklahoma's depth chart.
This morning the Sooners will conduct the first of 19 scheduled practices before school starts.
With so many positions filled by returning starters, what new faces might play key roles?
Coach Bob Stoops mentioned three — sophomore safety Aaron Colvin, redshirt freshman defensive end Geneo Grissom and redshirt freshman offensive tackle Darryl Williams.
“I liked the way those guys worked out in the winter and played in the spring,” Stoops said. “They showed signs they can help us... We'll see how they progress. I'm sure I'm missing someone. There will be other guys.”
A backup cornerback who started one game as a true freshman, Colvin was moved to strong safety last spring. Coaches and teammates said the Owasso product made the transition seamlessly.
"He's an athlete who has tremendous instincts," said linebacker Travis Lewis. "His greatest asset is finding the ball.
“There are two types of players. Players that do their job and players that do their job, plus somebody else's (job). He's one of those players who will do somebody else's job even though he doesn't have to."
Lewis compared Colvin's pursuit skills to Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu.
"AC is always around the ball," Lewis said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world but he'll put his hat on you. We're at our best when he's on the field."
Williams, from Lake Dallas, Texas, might start the Sept. 3 season opener against Tulsa.
Starting right tackle Jarvis Jones was projected to miss the first month of the season following a knee injury he suffered during spring drills. There are reports Jones might be ahead of schedule but he won't be 100 percent for two-a-days.
With Jones being eased back into the lineup, Williams, 6-foot-4, 304 pounds, will battle sophomore Josh Aladenoye.
"I love guys with good range as long as they're tough and have a huge frame," Stoops said, referring to Williams. "They're either a big tight end that we like to use or they grow into a tackle. Either one of them is good for the way we like to play."
On the defensive side, the Sooners lost defensive end Jeremy Beal, who finished second on the school's career sacks chart.
Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis are the projected starters at defensive end. While David King and R.J. Washington gained experience as reserves, Grissom, 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, made steady improvement his redshirt season.
“He has good speed off the corner,” Stoops said. “He has good size and good quickness. We'll see how he progresses.”