What we learned from Crimson Countdown

SoonerNation’s Crimson Countdown came to a close today with the final evaluation of defensive end Chuka Ndulue. The player-by-player look at OU’s roster, from No. 1 Tony Jefferson to No. 98 Ndulue, reveals some interesting realities within the program.

Here are three things we learned from the Crimson Countdown:

Evaluation is critical

Aaron Colvin wasn’t a top-50 prospect out of Owasso, Okla./Owasso but he has performed like one. He made an immediate impact at cornerback, starting as a true freshman in his first-ever Red River Rivalry. As a sophomore, he was one of the Sooners' top players at safety. This season, he’s poised to help solidify the corner spot opposite Demontre Hurst.

On the other hand, linebacker Daniel Franklin stepped on campus after being selected to play in the Army All-American game yet has not made a major impact on the field. He’s still be an asset to the program thanks to his contributions on special teams and in the classroom but his production has not mirrored the expectations for a prep All-American.

How a player fits in your system and their long-term upside is way more important than their reputation or hype before they arrive on campus.

Players who play their way out of a redshirt season must continue to improve or risk getting passed on the depth chart

For example, Jaydan Bird played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2009 after enrolling early and proving himself to be ready to contribute early. Yet, he has never started a game while making 39 total appearances in a OU uniform. Juniors Tom Wort and Corey Nelson arrived on campus after Bird and have combined to start 32 games since 2010.

By contrast, Tony Jefferson played his way out of a redshirt season in 2010 and has been one of the most productive players on the roster since he enrolled early. He’s started 21 of 27 career games and is poised to be one of the core members of the roster as a junior.

Early success and freshmen contributions don’t ensure eventual starter status in Norman.

A player’s mental focus is often the difference

Defensive end R.J. Washington was one of the nation’s top prospects when he arrived at OU. Yet he didn’t make a significant impact until last season. And he admits his struggles to earn playing time was directly related to his refusal to change his mental approach until his redshirt junior season.

Players who arrive on campus with the correct mental approach often rise quickly on the depth chart. Wort, Colvin, Jefferson, Trey Millard and Demontre Hurst are examples of players who entered the program with the mental focus required to make an impact.

The higher the number of players with that type of mental focus in your program, the better off you’ll be.