NORMAN — There’s been plenty of attention on Oklahoma’s five-star wide receivers Trejan Bridges, Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease during spring football drills.
Coach Lincoln Riley — who hauled in the trio with a strong recruiting pitch focused on his innovative attack — won’t let OU fans forget Austin Stogner, who he labels as the country’s most highly recruited tight end.
“Physically, all of them are good enough to play and be able to help you soon,” Riley said. “We thought they would be and they are. Mentally, how do they continue to prepare? How do they handle their bodies. How do they handle all the transitions? There’s still a lot of question marks out there on these guys.
“But there’s no doubt the capability is there. You like what we’ve seen from them thus far. If they can improve at a steady rate, they can be a special quartet of guys there.”
The group hasn’t been made available for interviews this spring. The first glimpse of them outside two 15-minute chunks of open practice to the media will be in the April 13 spring game inside Memorial Stadium. Not much more is known about the college transition outside of their numbers (Bridges is No. 8, Haselwood 11, Stogner 18 and Wease 10).
Jalen Hurts and Tanner Mordecai are the only Sooners scholarship quarterbacks this spring.
For Hurts, it’s an opportunity to not only get acquainted with the newcomers, but the veteran skill players as all attempt to get on the same page of Riley’s offense.
“I firmly believe we all have the ability to do the things that we need to do to get where we want to go and do the things we want to do,” Hurts said. “It’s all about meshing together as a group, as an offensive unit, and kind of finding that connection between each other
After numerous practices, what’s it been like working with the early enrollees catching passes?
Said Mordecai: “They’re special. They’re really good dudes. I mean they can play. I mean that’s why they were ranked so high and that’s why they’re here. They enrolled early, they gave up that last semester of high school and they’re balling out there and they’re working really hard. So we’re glad to have those guys for sure.”
CeeDee Lamb sounds like a grizzled old veteran when asked about Haselwood and Wease.
Less than 24 months ago, Lamb was only the program’s third true freshman to start a season opener. Now he’s watching his young teammates’ growth spurts.
“They’re very talented, versatile, they want to learn about the speed of the game and how to adjust. Having an ‘it’ factor in college I feel like is the main thing. Them two guys, they have it,” Lamb said. “They’re in the meeting room, they want to learn, they’re asking questions. I could see myself doing that. My freshman year I was doing that. I feel like I’m very confident in them guys. If I were to ever go down, God forbid, I’m comfortable with them two guys going in.”
Cale Gundy, OU’s inside wide receivers coach, said that 90 percent of the offensive playbook has been introduced to the early enrollees.
Gundy said the install is put in and recycled on certain practice days. It’s a motivator for young players.
“We don’t baby them,” Gundy said. “We put it in and challenge them to learn it in meetings. And when they’re away from here and they’re not doing their (academic) schoolwork, you’ve gotta learn this offense.”
Bridges and Stogner are playing inside wide receiver positions along with veterans Grant Calcaterra, Lee Morris, Drake Stoops, Mykel Jones and Nick Basquine (who is still waiting an NCAA ruling for a medical hardship waiver).
Gundy was asked about Bridges.
“He’s just a good player. You can always tell good players that are out there. And he’s young. He’s still learning. But when the ball is thrown in the air, he finds a way to catch the ball,” Gundy said.
Mark Andrews preceded Calcaterra, who is preceding Stogner at the tight end position.
“He’s been really good. It’s been fun to be sort of the older guy and watch him grow and develop,” Calcaterra said of Stogner. “Very long, great catch radius, runs good routes. He’s been blocking well. I’m excited to get to know him more on and off the field.”
Gundy said that in busy practices, there’s plenty of noise during live situations.
“Can you focus and can you maintain and understand what you’re doing and play fast? Those guys are getting there,” Gundy said.