It doesn't matter if your team has multiple Heisman Trophy or major honor candidates or if the cupboard of veteran players is as bare as those in Who-ville after the Grinch made his first pass on Christmas Eve, college football fans always want to know how are the freshmen? They want to know which freshmen will play right away and which freshman will be a star first?
It's human nature and the curiosity factor with the start of a new season. After four practices in fall camp coupled with a summer full of workouts in the weight room, outside and in the stadium in the evening with veteran players leading the squad, one freshman looks like an absolute to play this season.
Tulsa Booker T. Washington running back Justice Hill did squat nearly 600 pounds and has looked good all summer and in camp so far. Star linebacker and four-star recruit Calvin Bundage has made some plays in practice including a big hit in the inside drill on Thursday. Wide receiver Tyrell Alexander is getting reps with the first and second offense. Quarterback Keondre Wudtee is really a good looking player.
But the freshman who has made the biggest impression as the first week of drills come to a conclusion is not any one of those players. All are good candidates but it is the Tulsa World High School Player of the Year in Oklahoma for last season, the player that was a part of four-straight Class 6A state championships playing offense, defense, and special teams at Jenks, and it is the player that Jenks head coach Allan Trimble says is one of the best he's ever had and compared him to former Jenks star and Oklahoma Sooners standout Rocky Calmus. The answer is Dillon Stoner.
The 6-0, 180-pound Stoner could be working at safety, he is able to return kicks, and he is working as the third option as a holder on field goals and extra points, one of the many things he did at Jenks. His main task so far at Oklahoma State is playing receiver, but he is already running both outside at wide receiver behind James Washington and inside with the likes of Jalen McCleskey and Austin Hays.
He had a monster summer and neither head coach Mike Gundy, receiver star James Washington, receivers coach Kasey Dunn, nor assistant athletic director for speed, strength, and conditioning Rob Glass have been shy about bragging on the freshman.
"He had a great summer," Glass said. "He is a very hard worker and doesn't carry himself like a freshman."
"I would say just Dillon Stoner," Washington answered when asked which young receiver he thought would step up. "He has put in countless time in the spring and summer. When he was here, every time we ran with coach Glass, he ran his heart out. I think it will pay off. Him and all the younger guys put in a bunch of time and effort in it."
"Good. Dillon Stoner looks good. Tyrell Alexander looks good," Dunn said when asked about his younger pupils. "They're a couple of young guys that have come in, and I'm happy with their progress for sure. I'd be surprised if we didn't see them on the field come day one. We took the right guys. They're living up to expectations, and I'm happy with what I've seen so far."
"He is certainly a good candidate to play early," Gundy said. "He's getting quality reps not only on special teams but at the wide receiver position. He was an exceptional player in the summer. We've had just a couple of guys in my 12 years here that have been as along as he has in the summer."
It was in the spring that Trimble told me that Stoner and Rocky Calmus were the two most dedicated and most intense and driven players that he has coached. Trimble said Calmus was always doing whatever it took to help his team win and Stoner was the same way. No matter how glamorous or how blue collar, those two players would get after any task that was needed and rarely had to be told what to do. Trimble said, "He (Stoner) could be as good a player as has ever played at Jenks High School."
Now just four practices into fall camp, Stoner is running both outside and inside at receiver, has shown he is a prime candidate to play special teams and is eager to do so, and does all he does in practice with a minimal of fanfare. He doesn't need to be coddled or, even, complimented. His drive is internal and it is strong.
"He's fast, he's a good player," quarterback Mason Rudolph said. "He's quiet, but he's driven and motivated to play early."
He's starting to look like a "no brainer" to play right off the bat in the first series on offense or on the kickoff or kickoff return team to start the opening game.