OU v Ohio State

OU's Mykel Jones pulls in a pass during the Sooners' game against Ohio State, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, at Ohio Stadium. (Kyle Phillips / The Transcript)

Oklahoma has nine redshirt freshmen on its roster who would otherwise be sophomores, if not for the NCAA’s redshirt rule put in place before last season.

Lincoln Riley said he and his assistants spent hours in discussion trying to capitalize strategically on the rule, which allows players to participate in up to four games and still retain a redshirt.

“It did (lead to) a lot of conversations, weekly if not daily conversations about how you're going to deploy those guys,” Riley said. “We had some interesting ones last year, some that we really went back and forth on and really tried to look at from every different angle. It has changed the game. I do think it's a positive.”

Freshmen are prime targets for the rule, but players who’ve slipped from the depth chart or previous roles are also part of those talks. Mykel Jones, an inside receiver who played in 14 games with one start in 2017, saw action in just three games a year ago and now enters his redshirt junior year.

The rule still commands attention ahead of its second season in existence.

OU senior linebacker Caleb Kelly is rehabbing from a severe lower-body injury. The rule allows him time to recover, perhaps help the Sooners over the season’s final four games and still return the following year.

“I think there'll continue to be new situations that come up,” Riley said. “Caleb Kelly's an obvious example of a guy that is going through an injury and has a redshirt year available that there may be some interesting decisions with him down the line depending on how his rehab goes.”

• Thompson more than depth?: There were offseason murmurs that Michael Thompson, who signed with OU as a four-star defensive tackle but was moved to the offensive line, might be headed back to defense.

Riley has dispelled that and says the 6-foot-5, 324-pound Thompson isn’t being pegged as a backup just yet. OU recruited him initially as an offensive lineman and he’s looked good since recovering from an ACL tear last fall.

“He’s one of those guys that you hope over the summer has really made the gains as far as understanding our system and the techniques and really knocking some of the rust off playing that position,” Riley said. “But he certainly has the talent to contribute without a doubt.”

• Pro look: OU’s 2019 draft picks are getting situated in NFL preseason camps.

Marquise Brown, the first receiver taken this spring, passed his physical for the Baltimore Ravens. But early last week the former Sooner was still working at half speed, according to NBC.

Three of OU’s four offensive linemen drafted this year are in the mix for playing time. Ben Powers is taking repetitions with the starting guards in Baltimore, per the organization. Cody Ford was taking reps with the starting tackles with the Buffalo Bills, according to WGR radio. Dru Samia has reportedly been working with the Minnesota Vikings’ third team.

Former OU running back Rodney Anderson, a sixth-round pick to the Bengals, was moved to the Physically Unable to Perform list, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Anderson tore his ACL last September and by rule will miss the first six weeks of regular-season practice if he’s not healthy by the opener.

Austin Seibert has had better days. The Athletic recently detailed the former OU kicker and Greg Joseph’s kicking struggles in a live scrimmage.

“It’s practice. He’s going to get it ironed out. He’s working on it,” Baker Mayfield, Seibert’s old OU teammate, told reporters.

• This, that: Riley wouldn’t divulge which newcomers “made his jaw drop” when practice opened Saturday. But he said CeeDee Lamb and Kenneth Murray were guys in the past who fit that mold. He also included Justin Hardy, formerly of East Carolina and now with the Falcons. … Brendan Radley-Hiles spent time at nickelback and safety last year. For now he’s slated to play nickel, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said.

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