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Oklahoma: 5 Newcomers To Watch

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The college football season is almost upon us and as usual, each season brings a buzz around certain players that have never set foot on a major college football field. This year is no different for the Oklahoma Sooners, as one of college football's giants attempts to climb the ladder back up to the level it was at during the first years of the Bob Stoops era.

To get there, the Sooners will be depending on key contributions from newcomers on both sides of the ball. Here are five players that could have a big impact for Oklahoma this season.

1. DT - Quincy Russell

The junior college transfer from Trinity Valley Community College finally arrived in Norman, much to the relief of Sooner fans everywhere. Without even playing a snap in an OU uniform, Russell is already viewed as the potential savior for the OU defensive line. He has size and speed, and has all the makings of a great defensive tackle. However, potential is a dangerous thing and until he actually produces on the field, skepticism is not a bad way to go.

2. S - Hatari Byrd

The Sooners are very inexperienced at safety, currently starting Gabe Lynn and Quentin Hayes. Byrd has great size and speed and has all the tools to be a solid, if not great, safety at this level. His skill set has had other players and coaches talking since summer practice began at the beginning of August. While Byrd may not be a starter when the season begins, he will see the field quite a bit and possibly grab a starting spot.

What they're saying:

OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops- "He's very knowledgeable. He's easy to coach. He wants to be great. His maturity level is one of the highest I've seen this early on in a career. His maturity physically—we all know what he looks like—but his maturity mentally and athletically. That's a very unique set of tools to work with in a kid this young. He may be the biggest, fastest guy we've seen at this age. Again, he possesses a lot of intangible qualities, but it's only three days. So far, so good. We think he has a bright future."

3. RB - Keith Ford

Ford has already made a name for himself with Oklahoma fans, trucking defensive tackle Jordan Phillips in a video of OU participating in the Oklahoma drill during practice. The Sooners are loaded at running back this season, so carries will be hard to come by. However, Ford was one of the best running backs in the state of Texas last season and it will be hard to keep his talent on the sideline. Chances are—like Byrd—Ford sees a few carries early in the season before becoming a bigger part of the rotation later in the season.

What they're saying:

Running back Brennan Clay- "Keith Ford is good, people. I like the young buck. He's doing well and went well through summer workouts. We'll see if we get him on the field this year."

4. DE - Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

"Obo," as his teammates call him, has made a big impression during practice. With the Sooners fairly thin along the defensive line, there's a good chance he could get some good time this season. Okoronkwo's unique trait is his size. He's 6-foot-3 but just 215 pounds. Even for a speed rusher, that's fairly thin. More time in a college weight room will help him bulk up, but that speed off the edge could be a huge help in an offense-minded league. He may not become a feared pass rusher like Barkevious Mingo, but he could be a big help for OU.

What they're saying:

Offensive tackle Daryl Williams- "He's really fast off the edge and really strong for being such a light weight. He should be really good."

5. LB - Dominique Alexander

The Booker T. Washington product played safety in high school in addition to linebacker, giving him great experience in coverage. Teammates have raved about his catching skills, saying he hasn't dropped an interception all practice. With Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops promising to use linebackers more consistently this season, there's no reason Alexander wouldn't be at least a small part of the rotation.

What they're saying:

Linebacker Corey Nelson- "He's a great athlete. Coming in, I was watching this guy play, and he fits right into the defense. He's able to pick up on everything quickly. He has great instincts for the ball and that's what allows him to make plays out there and that's what allows him to keep up with the speed of the game. He's got some smooth hands. I haven't seen him drop a ball out there."

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