Oklahoma’s first partial year under Brent Venables has been a recruiting success. He inherited a few recruits and put the finishing touches on some others close to committing. Many prospects followed Riley to USC but others were drawn to Oklahoma by Venables. The Oklahoma freshman class was ranked eighth by On3 and 10th by 24/7 Sports. Pretty close to the ninth and sixth ranks OU earned from the same sources last year.

Defensive Freshmen

Defensive Backs

The class is headlined by Gentry Williams, a four-star athlete from Tulsa. The six-foot 170-pound Williams has all the tools needed to be a star at Oklahoma. Williams is freaky fast and has impressive agility at that speed. He’s a state champion runner in both the 400-meter and 200-meter dashes, proof of his ability to maintain that incredible speed. Gentry primarily played quarterback in high school but profiles much better as a corner. He will need to continue to refine his coverage technique, especially in the Venables scheme, but his speed and control should help cover up early errors. 

In another nice addition to the secondary, Oklahoma picked up four-star safety Robert Spears-Jennings. Spears-Jennings also played on both sides of the ball in high school, playing safety and wide receiver in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma freshman recorded 56 tackles, two for loss, four pass breakups, a forced fumble, and four interceptions (one of which he house called) and that’s just his 2021 defensive stats. He also compiled over 1,300 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in 2020 and 2021. Spears-Jennings brings similar speed to Williams as he also has a track background. 

Front Seven

The Sooners also added Jaren Kanak, a linebacker from Hays, Kansas. Jaren was initially committed to Clemson but followed Venables to Norman. Kanak is six foot two and over 220 pounds and still running the 100 meters dash in just over 10 seconds (PR of 10.37). Kanak brings incredible pass rush ability to the Sooners with his speed and power to get past blockers. He also played quarterback in high school and showcased his power and speed on this run, back when he was still committed to Clemson. He’ll need to add a little weight but should be a playmaker in no time. 

I love the way Kanak projects alongside Danny Stutsman. Both are reckless defenders who constantly look to blow the play up before it gets going. Spears-Jennings and Williams will be essential pieces of Venable’s secondary alongside Woodi Washington and Billy Bowman

Up front, the Sooners have added five new defensive linemen rated above three stars. Top-ranked among them is Gracen Halton from San Diego. Halton is a four-star prospect who can play tackle or edge and moves well for being over 270 pounds. He possesses an effective swim move and easily overwhelmed high school competition with size and strength. Kevonte Henry is a fellow four-star Californian joining the Sooners on the defensive line. Henry is from Lawndale and has experience at edge, as a standup linebacker, and as a running back. He projects best playing over a tackle and using his athleticism to seal the edge.

Offensive Freshmen

Skill Positions

On the offensive side of the ball, the Sooners recruited a pair of four stars at running back. Gavin Sawchuk and Jovontae Barnes hail from Colorado and Nevada respectively. Barnes had an electric spring game in which he rushed for two touchdowns. He made a solid case for himself as the second horse in the backfield behind Eric Gray. Barnes has the power and hands to play significant snaps right away in Oklahoma’s offense. Meanwhile, Sawchuk has a similar skill set and should be able to fill the hole left by Gray after this season. The Sooners’ stable of running backs will help them assert ground dominance for years. 

Also getting involved in the spring game was Jayden Gibson. The long and lanky receiver presents constant mismatch opportunities with his six-foot-five frame. Gibson caught a 95-yard touchdown and showed off his speed and ability to separate. If Gibson can fill out and continue to add size and strength to his frame he could be the next great OU receiver. He has the technical skills and length to be a stud for Dillon Gabriel. Speaking of, if you wanna hear about all of the QBs that Oklahoma brought in this year check out this article I wrote.

Offensive Tackles

The Sooners’ offensive line hasn’t been neglected either. Four-star Vegas native, Jake Taylor, leads the pack and should be phenomenal. Already standing six foot six and nearly 300 pounds, he has the size and mobility to be dominant at the college level. His first punch has an impressive ability to stagger defenders and I can’t even count the number of pancake blocks on his high school tape. Jacob Sexton should also be a key piece on the line. The Edmond native decided to stay in Oklahoma after playing high school ball at Deer Creek. He opens up big holes in the run game and shows regular willingness to hustle and make blocks downfield.

The 2022 Oklahoma freshmen should give Venables and his staff a great base to build on. He should be able to install his defensive scheme through star players like Kanak and Williams. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has plenty of new toys on offense as well. Gibson and Barnes have already shown the potential to be standouts in Norman while Taylor and Sexton could be stalwarts on the line.

Want more Oklahoma and NFL content? Follow @Research_Passer on Twitter! For more on Venables’ scheme and the rest of the coaches click here. To keep up with everything sports-related follow @BellyUpSports

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