If ever there was a subjective list, this is it. Trying to determine the five breakout stars for Oklahoma from spring football is almost purely opinion.
What constitutes a breakout star? Is it someone older finally putting it together? Is it a younger guy starting to realize potential? Is it a kid that should be in high school showing he can compete?
Your definition can vary, and Sooners Illustrated’s own definition varies in this list. It’s hard to quantify why these are the five, but if you think about it, it just feels like this is the quintet.
Center Creed Humphrey
Humphrey falls under that mid-year enrollee spot who has performed above and beyond what anybody thought. When you talk OU in 2017, you mention the depth of the offensive line. And when you talk recruiting, you start wondering how anybody is going to fit into that line when there are so many established parts there. Humphrey shows you how you do just that. You compete. You earn the right to play more. You do things correctly. Handle your business on and off the field and put yourself in a position to be in the mix. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh praised Humphrey like crazy this spring, and it was easy to see why.
Wide receiver Jeffery Mead
When talking Mead, you go the other way. He’s obviously not the new kid on the block, but he’s a guy where it’s all coming together. Maybe not in the mold of a Sterling Shepard or Dede Westbrook and certainly Mead’s personality is much different than both of them, but don’t be surprised to see him emerge as the No. 1 receiver. He’s going to be a senior. He understands the clock is ticking and his final spring practice is in the books. He’s always been among the most articulate players off the field, but now he’s showing intelligence on it as well. With his size, with his hands and a budding chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield, 2017 should be special for Mead.
Cornerback Parnell Motley
Motley is splitting the difference of the first two. Not as young as Humphrey, not a veteran like Mead. Somebody who, if people are being honest, fully expected to not be in the cornerback picture as a sophomore. An athlete in high school, Motley’s signing felt like the definition of depth moving forward. Motley didn’t see it that way. His freshman season was about as blah as it gets, but he didn’t get down about that. You can see the work he has put in with the way he has attacked the winter and spring and become a highlight in the making. If you had to number this list, it would be tough to put Motley anywhere else but No. 1.
Linebacker Kenneth Murray
Murray seems like someone who just gets it. He understands what he’s going to need to do to be successful at this level of football. When Murray says he stays after practice and continues to work, he’s not lying. Every time media was allowed for interviews of coaches and players, Murray would be there working on something in the background. Footwork, blocking dummies, something. Moving from outside linebacker to inside might be a challenge, heck, it should be for somebody who has never played the spot before. Also shows how much the coaches trust him and value him. They want him on the field, and they’re going to figure out how to make that happen.
Linebacker Jon-Michael Terry
We’re finally starting to see what coaches Bob Stoops and Mike Stoops have been talking about. Terry was redshirted in 2016, and you had no clue how he was going to respond to that. After watching him in spring, you sort of wonder how hard it was to keep that redshirt on Terry for the 2016 season. He appears to be the natural inside linebacker OU has been searching for the last few seasons. He’s still got that quiet personality, but his play is loud and doing the talking right now. The linebackers are going to be a young group, but if you have Caleb Kelly, Terry and Emmanuel Beal/Kenneth Murray, Sooners will take that easily into the 2017 season.