Countdown to College Football Kickoff: Top NFL prospects at Oklahoma

Dec 7, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooner center Creed Humphrey (56) prepares to snap the ball against the Baylor Bears in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Rang

College football is scheduled to return Saturday, August 29. Each day until then, NFLDraftScout.com will be evaluating the rosters of the best teams in college football, including all 64 within the Power Five conferences.

Oklahoma Sooners

Head Coach: Lincoln Riley (fourth season)

2019 Record: 12-2

2020 NFL Draft Picks: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys – 1st Round, No. 17 overall

Kenneth Murray, LB, Los Angeles Chargers – 1st Round, No. 23 overall

Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles – 2nd Round, No. 53 overall

Neville Gallimore, DT, Dallas Cowboys – 3rd Round, No. 82 overall

Overview:

In terms of consistency, it is hard to top the Oklahoma Sooners, who for the 17 time in the 20 seasons since the turn of the century earned double-digit victories, taking home the Big XII championship and representing the conference in the playoffs.

It is easy to slip into hyperbole when discussing head coach Lincoln Riley, who has turned in identical 12-2 records each of his three seasons at the helm despite starting a different quarterback each year.

Of course, talents like Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts make the job easier and critics would be quick to point out that while Riley’s teams have performed brilliantly during the regular season, he is 0-3 in bowl games, including getting thumped 63-28 by eventual national champion LSU last year in the Peach Bowl.

The only other blemish on the Sooners’ record last year was a 48-41 loss in Manhattan to a proud Kansas State squad, which has some exciting NFL prospects of their own. 

Speaking of prospects, despite losing four Top 100 picks – including two first rounders – last spring, the tap of talent at Oklahoma is seemingly never-ending. Humphrey is a future first round pick but he’ll have plenty of competition among the Sooners in the 2021 NFL draft, which an NFL source confirmed is still scheduled to take place even if the entire college football season is canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

To get back to the playoffs, however, Riley will need to work his magic at quarterback yet again. Former five-star recruit Spencer Rattler, who some characterized as one of the crown jewels of the 2019 class, is considered by those close to the team to be the favorite to win the job, though redshirt sophomore Tanner Mordecai is the leading returning passer on the team… with a grand total of 244 passing yards and two touchdowns to his credit.

Fortunately, the Sooners boast one of the nation’s elite 1-2 punches at running back in redshirt junior Kennedy Brooks (1,011 rushing yards, six TDs in 2019) and senior Rahmondre Stevenson (515, six) to support their inexperienced quarterback.

The Sooners’ backfield would have been even deeper had former star Trey Sermon not opted to transfer to Ohio State, which another hotbed for NFL talent.

Featured 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Creed Humphrey, C, 6-4, 316, 5.0, rJR

It isn’t often that an interior offensive lineman is the highest rated prospect for a powerhouse program like Oklahoma, but then again, Humphrey is no ordinary center.

The Oklahoma native signed with the Sooners as a four-star recruit, turning down rival Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Alabama, among others. He redshirted his first season on campus but then slid in beautifully into the starting lineup in 2018, earning Second Team All-Big XII honors (Honorable Mention from league coaches) playing pivot on an offensive line which earned the Joe Moore Award as the nation’s best.

Humphrey was the only one of OU’s starting five to return last year, with left tackle Bobby Evans (Los Angeles Rams), left guard Ben Powers (Baltimore Ravens), right guard Dru Samia (Minnesota Vikings) and right tackle Cody Ford (Buffalo Bills) all getting drafted into the NFL.

One would think Humphrey might see a dropoff given the loss of talent and experience surrounding him, but instead he matured into one of the best interior linemen in college football, registering a career-best 93 knockdown blocks and not allowing a single sack in the 379 passing attempts the Sooners attempted last year.

His stellar play made Humphrey nearly a consensus All-American. He was named the Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year for the Big XII - sharing the award with Colton McKivitz (West Virginia), now a member of the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers – and was one of three finalists for the Rimington Award as the nation’s elite center.

He enters his third season as a starter firmly atop NFLDraftScout.com’s center rankings and a projected first round pick whenever he should elect to go to the NFL.

Strengths: Rare size for the position with a prototypical build for blocking. Has a broad-shouldered, barrel-chested frame with long arms and a thick lower half. Humphrey doesn’t just look good walking off the bus, he looks even better in his stance, bending exceptionally low with his knees and springing out of them to deliver immediate, forceful hits on opponents and routinely winning the leverage battle. Former wrestler and it shows in his game… Terrific snap-and-step quickness, delivering accurate shotgun snaps and quickly switching to latch onto defenders. Slides easily laterally, maintaining that knee bend and playing on the balls of his feet. Plays with such balance that bull rushers are often stoned immediately, struggling to get any push back into the quarterback’s face through Humphrey… Impressive grip strength, power and leg drive to catch and control. Rarely lets go once he latches on, typically sustaining his blocks for the duration of the play with some impressive pancakes.

Surprisingly agile for a man of his size and position, skipping up to the second level and showing not only balance but awareness in adjusting to the moving targets.

As well as when adjusting to late blitzes. Again, it isn’t just the physical traits but the football smarts…

Natural athlete whose athletic exploits have been well documented.

Revered by the OU coaching staff throughout his career. Was recognized as the leader of the Joe Moore Award-winning group even as a redshirt freshman, earning public praise from Riley and other Sooners’ coaches for his natural talent, weight room prowess and work ethic. "He's been a game-changer for us," Riley was quoted in 2018. "He's probably the biggest difference from this year comparing all the other lines from previous years. He's a dominant center, and you don't come across those very often in coaching. It's just a difficult position to do it, especially to do it as a freshman the way he's done it…” Was lifting 400 pounds on the bench and 600 pounds in squats before he signed with the Sooners… Wrestled competitively since he was four… Father, Chad, was a three-time All-American wrestler at the University of Central Oklahoma…

Weaknesses: Picking nits, but Oklahoma’s scheme doesn’t ask Humphrey to provide traditional QB snaps often… Loads up for big hits on defenders when working double-teams, delivering some strikes that result in pancakes but risking getting himself off-balance in doing so… Similarly, gets too confident in his ability to anchor that his hand placement can wander too far outside, leaving him off-balance.

Spread offense, mobility at quarterback, speed on the outside all play roles in limiting how aggressive defenses can attack the middle, providing an assist to all of the Sooners’ blockers…

NFL Player Comparison: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers – Dominant center prospects don’t come around very often but when they do, their talent just pops off the tape. Bigger than most centers with grown-man strength already as well as terrific functional quickness and balance, Humphrey is a future first round pick and Pro Bowl selection.

Current NFL Draft Projection: First Round

The Top 10 NFL Prospects at Oklahoma:

1. Creed Humphrey, C, 6-4, 316, 5.0, rJR

2. Kennedy Brooks, RB, 5-10, 216, 4.50, rJR

3. Adrian Ealy, OT, 6-5, 328, 5.25, rJR

4. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, 6-0, 236, 4.55, SR

5. Charleston Rambo, WR, 6-0, 180, 4.45, rJR

6. Marquis Hayes, OG, 6-4, 330, 5.30, rJR

7. Ronnie Perkins, DE, 6-3, 251, 4.75, JR

8. Tre Brown, CB, 5-10, 181, 4.45, SR

9. Jalen Redmond, DL, 6-2, 266, 4.75, rSoph

10. Caleb Kelly, LB, 6-2, 230, 4.65, rSR

*All 40-yard dash times are estimates

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