NORMAN — Oklahoma’s current roster will change after this month, ushering out NFL Draft early entries, seniors or transfers, and welcoming new faces.
OU’s 2019 recruiting class — which will begin taking shape Wednesday with the start of the early signing period — will factor heavily into how the Sooners will look in years to come.
How have Lincoln Riley and his staff done filling needs thus far, and what positions had them? Here’s an early look.
• Quarterback: Kyler Murray will almost certainly leave the program following this season, either to play professional baseball under his contract with the Oakland Athletics or in the NFL, where experts are projecting him as high as the first round.
That leaves redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall as the likely heir to the starting job, though he’ll have to beat out Spencer Rattler, a five-star prospect and the undisputed top quarterback in the 2019 class who is expected to sign with OU Wednesday.
There’s also Tanner Mordecai, the former three-star product from Waco who will be a redshirt freshman in 2019.
• Offensive line: This group could go through a major rebuild, with as many as four different players needing replacement.
Guards Ben Powers and Dru Samia will be out of eligibility. Right tackle Cody Ford has been listed as high as No. 15 in NFL mock drafts, so he’s a likely candidate to declare. Left tackle Bobby Evans could do the same, though his projections aren’t quite as high.
That would leave center Creed Humphrey as the lone returner.
The good news is OU has recruited well. Redshirt sophomore Erik Swenson (left tackle) and redshirt freshman Tyrese Robinson (right tackle) are in good position to step in next year. Brey Walker (6-6, 338) and Darrell Simpson (6-7, 300) were big pieces to last year’s recruiting class and could factor in.
OU has two 2019 four-star prospects committed in EJ Ndoma-Ogar (6-3, 3-10) and Stacey Wilkins (6-7, 285).
• Receiver: The biggest void, should he leave for the NFL, would Marquise Brown’s. But there’s help on the way in five-star prospects Trejan Bridges and Theo Wease; both could make an immediate impact in the way CeeDee Lamb did a year ago as a freshman.
Otherwise, OU doesn’t lose much production at all, though Nick Basquine (redshirt senior) has been a steady role player. Having Lamb back guarantees there’s a go-to target present.
• H-back/tight end: OU returns tight end Grant Calcaterra, whose numbers (378 yards, six TDs receiving) haven’t been huge, but his performances in big moments have (see the Big 12 title game).
There’s also Brayden Willis, who will be a sophomore after appearing in 11 games this fall. Four-star 2019 tight end prospect Austin Stogner is committed as well.
At H-back, the development of redshirt freshman Jeremiah Hall and freshman Coby Tillman will be something to watch with Carson Meier moving on.
• Running back: Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks and T.J. Pledger are expected to be back, but Rodney Anderson (injury/NFL) and senior Marcelias Sutton are both out of the picture.
Millwood High School (Oklahoma City) product Marcus Major and JUCO transfer Rhamondre Stevenson are OU’s lone 2019 commits in the backfield. Both players — Major at 6-foot 190 pounds and Stevenson and 6 foot 230 pounds — are built well physically.
• Defensive line: If defensive end Amani Bledsoe doesn’t win a lawsuit against the NCAA for the year of eligibility he lost for testing positive for a banned substance — which he claims to have taken unknowingly — then his college career will be over after this season.
Still, barring any transfers, OU would return every other defensive lineman. It should also have the services of Jalen Redmond and Michael Thompson, true freshmen who sat out this fall due to health issues.
The Sooners have five defensive linemen committed from the 2019 class, including two four-star players: defensive ends Marcus Hicks (6-6, 255) and Joseph Wete (6-3, 210).
• Secondary: Senior safeties Kahlil Haughton and Prentice McKinney will be gone, but every other defensive back returns.
It’s tough to know exactly where everyone will play considering a new defensive coordinator will be in place to sort through them all, but experienced cornerbacks return (Tre Brown, Tre Norwood and Parnell Motley) and safety/nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles’ should continue developing.
OU’s 2019 commits are both four-star guys: Woodi Washington (6-0, 175) and Jaden Davis (5-11, 165).
• Linebacker: Fifth-year senior Curtis Bolton’s void will need to be filled since he was an emotional and important player in the middle. But OU’s new defensive coordinator will have every other linebacker returning, which seems like a nice luxury.
Kenneth Murray (middle linebacker) and Caleb Kelly (strongside linebacker) are solid pieces to build around. Freshman DaShaun White has appeared in all 13 games this season. It’s easy to forget how young this group is currently, containing 10 freshmen or sophomores.
Three-star prospect Jonathan Perkins (6-1, 205) is the lone 2019 linebacker committed to OU.
Early signing period
When: Dec. 19-21
OU 2019 commitments: 19
Class ranking: No. 9 (Rivals); No. 8 (247sports composite); No. 10 (ESPN)
• OU picks up JUCO RB: Oklahoma picked up a junior college prospect for the second day in a row.
Running back Rhamondre Stevenson committed Monday, giving the Sooners a needed boost in backfield depth in the 2019 class.
JUCO defensive end LaRon Stokes committed Sunday.
OU expects to return running backs Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks and T.J. Pledger next season, but was in need of another body with Rodney Anderson declaring for the NFL Draft and Marcelias Sutton exhausting his eligibility. Stevenson is the Sooners’ second running back committed to this class, joining Millwood (Oklahoma City) product Marcus Major.
Stevenson, who is 6 foot 1, 230 pounds, comes from Cerritos (California) Community College, where he rushed for 2,111 yards (9.5 per carry) and 16 touchdowns this fall.
He is OU’s 19th commitment from the 2019 class. The early signing period runs Dec. 19-21.