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November 4, 2010Oklahoma's true freshmen have taken their turns being recognized since last spring. Kenny Stills was all the talk following Oklahoma's Red & White Scrimmage in April. Tony Jefferson became the star frosh when he excelled as a starting defensive back early in the season.
Now Roy Finch has become the biggest target of praise after adding a new dimension to the offense over the last three games.
If you're looking for the next breakout star of this freshmen class, it could be tight end Austin Haywood, who is starting to receive more and more playing time as the Sooners face a tough road stretch to end the regular season.
Haywood still hasn't caught a pass this season, but in practices, Kevin Wilson sees a really special talent developing. He's stopped short of saying Haywood is a Jermaine Gresham type talent, but according to Wilson, the freshmen from Southmoore shows some special abilities on the practice fields.
"He's not Ryan Broyles, but he's kind of like that in the passing game in that he understands spots and sitting down," explained Wilson. "He's done some things that we've never said to do, where (he) felt a guy coming so (he) just slowed down. (He has) good awareness.
"He's got a good feel for space, good hands. He's very fluid where he can make some awkward catches twisting. The other night he probably blocked as well as the other two guys. That to me is where you're always worried about young guys, especially at tight end."
Haywood will continue to receive more snaps as the season progresses. It's been a slow process for the freshmen who has had to learn a very complex position in the OU offense after just being able to let his athletic ability dominate high school competition.
Wilson also believes his presence is helping the other tight ends on the roster, James Hanna and Trent Ratterree.
"He played 40 snaps the other night. Two of the last three games he's gotten the most snaps among the tight ends. I think that helps James and Trent play faster," Wilson said. "Because that was 20 less plays for those guys. At the end of the game those guys were playing faster and making plays."
Haywood's emergence has also had an effect on other players at the tight end position. The Sooners had been working with former high school quarterback, Lane Johnson, in hopes he could become another Joe Jon Finley type at tight end.
But now the coaches are working Johnson in the rotation at defensive end, and they like what they've seen so far.
"Austin Haywood is really doing well at tight end, along with these other guys.
We think it may fit him better. And you know what? In just a week's time, we kind of think it does," said Stoops. "He's a big, strong guy, athletic, plays hard. So this may be a good fit for him."