There are several Sooners doing that this spring, but Sooners Illustrated picked the five who are tearing it up more than anyone else. These five are making the most of their opportunities:
- Brian Jackson, Cornerback
When you talk to coaches and other players, there's one name that always comes up about defensive players who are making a big impact. It's Brian Jackson. The rising junior has been making plays left and right all spring and just might be giving coaches a little more peace of mind after the exodus of starting corners Reggie Smith and Marcus Walker. Jackson's always had the talent, but not always the commitment. He realized that after the 2007 season and decided to dedicate himself in the offseason to start making himself the best football player possible. The results so far have benefitted not only Jackson, but the entire team.
- Keenan Clayton, Linebacker
Remember him? Clayton has been infamous for most of two seasons now as "the guy who missed those tackles against UAB and Washington." That was the case when Clayton started the first two games of 2006, his redshirt freshman season, at strong safety. Since then, he's been relegated to special teams and the bench. This spring, Sooner coaches decided to give Clayton a shot at strongside linebacker. Not only is he helping fill a void in another otherwise thin position, but Clayton is suddenly fulfilling his potential and making OU coaches look like geniuses for the move. In Oklahoma's first scrimmage of the season, Clayton had six tackles, including four for losses and two sacks. He also had an interception. In the second scrimmage, he added another 11 tackles. Clayton's speed and early playmaking ability could mean the strongside backer is no longer someone who is on the field for running downs, then on the bench for passing downs in favor of more defensive backs. Clayton mixture of size and speed give coaches the option of leaving him on the field.
- Matt Clapp, Fullback
Clapp came to Oklahoma in the same class as Reggie Smith, Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Kelly. They're headed to the NFL while Clapp has hardly seen the field. That's about to change. Clapp's been turning heads in practice with his blocking and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He's also a deceptively shifty runner with the ball in his hands and he can bring the power with his 230-pound frame. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has raved about Clapp all spring, going so far as to say Clapp was the team's best fullback a year ago. Injuries hurt Clapp in 2007, but so far he's been able to avoid the bug this spring. If that trend continues, look for Clapp to provide the offense with a weapon from the position not seen since J.D. Runnels graduated.
- Frank Alexander, Defensive End
Suddenly the defensive end position is turning into a position of strength and depth – and Alexander is one of the reasons. The redshirt freshman has been opening eyes with his ability in the trenches. Coaches speak about him often in post-practice interview sessions, so he's garnering some attention. Of course, that's aided by the fact that Auston English and John Williams aren't participating, giving players like Alexander, Alan Davis and others some extra snaps. But those extra plays mean nothing if you don't take advantage of them and Alexander is doing just that. If he keeps it up, you won't be able to keep him off the field in the fall.
- Ryan Broyles, Slot receiver
If not for his "incident" last year, Broyles may have been starting as a freshman. Instead, he was relegated to the scout team where he gave the Sooner starters fits with his abilities. That has carried over into the spring as coaches and teammates rave about Broyles' ability to make plays. It's not a stretch to say Broyles has been the most impressive Sooner during the spring, at least until he broke a collarbone a couple weeks back. Still, Bob Stoops himself said he'd seen enough from Broyles to know that he's going to be someone who can make the team better. It's especially encouraging when you consider how much talent was already returning on that side of the ball. Still, with all that talent, Broyles was able to stand out.