October 12, 2010

NORMAN - Oklahoma's 2010 freshman class was rated one of the top in the country.

But so far, compared to the other Top 10 classes, it's been the best, in terms of immediate impact.

Through five games, the Sooners have had four true freshmen make starts. Safety Tony Jefferson, a starter from day one, has been one of OU's best defensive players. Kenny Stills is the team's second-leading receiver. Fullback Trey Millard is unloading devastating blocks one after the other in a revived run game. And cornerback Aaron Colvin, who filled in for an injured Jamell Fleming, was so impressive in the Red River Rivalry, he's making Fleming earn his starting spot back.

"These are true freshmen making huge plays," said OU linebacker Travis Lewis, who then singled out Jefferson. "That guy is a playmaker. To be that young, to play defense the way that he does, to make plays the way that he is, he's an All-American in the making."


All four saved their best performances yet for the Cotton Bowl, a place that usually intimidates true freshmen. Stills and Millard scored touchdowns. And Jefferson and Colvin played lockdown defense.

"It was something. I have to admit it was impressive," Stoops said. "I saw it before the game. They couldn't wait to play. There wasn't a bit of doubt in their eyes and they played that way.

"And they didn't just play, they impacted the game."

No top 10 freshman recruiting class has impacted a program the way this group has impacted the Sooners.

Florida has played a national-high 16 true freshmen, including high school quarterback Trey Burton, who has been dynamic in the Percy Harvin do-it-all role.

USC has gotten mileage from a class that rated No. 1. Wide receiver Robert Woods and cornerback Nickell Robey have broken into the starting lineup, and the rest of the two-deep is littered with other true freshmen like wideout Markeith Ambles and safety Demetrius Wright.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has been the most valuable junior- college transfer in college football, but the Tigers have also been invigorated by true freshmen like starting running back Michael Dyer, who is averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

But it's hard to argue those freshman classes over a group Stoops said in August had a chance to be the best he'd ever coached, after just a few days of practice.

"I feel stronger about it now," Stoops said last week. "There's no denying it. It's a really strong class. And there are guys that haven't played a lot yet, but are on the verge of it, or some that are being redshirted, who are going to be really strong players, too."

Some of those guys are receiver Trey Franks, defensive tackle Daniel Noble and linebacker Corey Nelson and lightning quick running back Roy Finch. Finch generated more buzz than any other freshman in August before suffering a hairline fracture in his ankle two weeks before the opener. Finch is expected to make his long-awaited debut Saturday against Iowa State.

Said Stills: "We always joke in the locker room, 'Class of 2010, taking over.'"

Said Colvin: "If we stay focused, continue to be playmakers, continue to fly around, I feel like this class can be really special."

Up to now, it's been just that.