Oklahoma mailbag: Could any freshmen defensive linemen start this season?
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Brock Castleberry asks: ‘With so much young talent on the defensive line, what are the chances any of the young guys start?’
I think it would be a stretch to think any of the freshmen defensive linemen would start immediately. But it’s a safe assumption that most of them will play this season.
Defensive end Ronnie Perkins was a mid-year enrollee and showed more than enough during spring practice that he will play this season. I don’t expect him to be a starter. My money is on Kenneth Mann and Amani Bledsoe as the No. 1 defensive ends and Neville Gallimore as the No. 1 nose guard. But I expect Perkins to among that group of rotating defensive ends. He already has the size (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) to play. Odds are by the end of summer workouts, he’ll be even bigger.
Michael Thompson and Jordan Kelly will both get looks at the nose guard. Thompson, who was the No. 4 defensive tackle in the 2018 247Sports composite rankings, might be the best of the group long-term. Jordan Kelly could be an early factor, too. I talked to him in person two weeks ago. He has the size, but was a defensive end in high school. It could take him a year to learn a new position. I think that could be an issue for 4-star defensive end Ronnie Perkins. He was an outside pass rusher in high school. But I don’t think that will be the case at Oklahoma.
But here’s the bottom line when it comes to freshman: if they can help at all and are healthy, I don’t think the coaching staff wants to redshirt them. With the number of players entering the NFL draft after three years versus those who are willing to stay through for five years with a redshirt season, sitting out a year as a redshirt is seen as a matter of last resort anymore.