‘As smooth a young athlete we’ve had since the Sterling Shepard days’ — 20 Oklahoma City area underclassmen to watch in 2023

Last Updated: August 10, 20235.5 min read

Colby Watson (6-3, 195, So.) — Crescent QB/LB

With at least three players who can take snaps, Crescent is still managing its starting quarterback situation, but there are no questions surrounding Watson’s arm talent and, at 6-foot-3, physical presence. The latter rings truer for his defense, where Crescent head coach J.L. Fisher expects Watson to be difference-maker at linebacker.

Ricklian Holmes (6-1, 210, So.) — Del City LB/RB

Holmes, a budding three-sport standout, started for the Eagles at linebacker and played significant time in the backfield as a freshman. He recorded five sacks and 55 tackles in 2022. Del City’s staff raves about his work ethic and coach-ability.

Jerrod Williams (6-1, 155, So.) — Heritage Hall DB/WR (pictured above)

Williams started all 14 games on defense on the Hall’s route to a 3A state championship last year and “did nothing but get better every week,” head coach Brett Bogert said. He reportedly hit a growth spurt during the offseason and improved upon his already blazing speed, which helped the Chargers win a championship in the 400m relay last spring. Offensively, he is expected to make a greater impact this season. Bogert called Williams “as smooth of a young athlete that we’ve had since the Sterling Shepard days.”

Judson Gilliland (5-9, 18-, So.) — Bethany LB/RB/QB

Gilliland notched 30 tackles as a freshman and will be entrusted as leader of the team’s defense when the Bronchos take the field Aug. 25 at Jones. Offensively, the ball-carrier averaged 10 yards per carry last fall and will be trusted to take some snaps at quarterback this year.

Malachi Hardiman (6-3, 255, Fr.) — Guthrie OT/DT

Only a freshman, Hardiman is expected to impact Guthrie’s success on both sides of the field starting Week 1 against Ponca City. Hardiman has already impressed the Guthrie staff with his athleticism, positional quickness and football iQ beyond his years.

Maurtice Wright (6-0, 205, Fr.) — Luther RB/ILB/DT

Few young area players are as heralded by their coach as Wright. Brad Robertson called him “the future” for Luther football. He’ll carry the rock alongside senior Ruben Vega, one of Class 2A’s top backs, where Robertson hopes he will learn how to “play fast and angry with bad intentions.” Defensively, he is expected to make an impact in the interior.

Tristan LeBlanc (5-11, 195, So.) — Bridge Creek DE

LeBlanc started for the Bobcats as a freshman and “did a great job” by head coach Larry Spangler’s standards. A gym rat and industrious ball player, LeBlanc will look to improve upon his rookie year with another solid showcase in Bridge Creek’s refined 4-2-5 defense.

Cruz Campbell (5-11, 170, So.) — Southmoore QB

Campbell is back for seconds after he tossed a 40-yard touchdown in his first drive as a varsity quarterback and consequently threw for over 2,400 yards and 29 touchdowns with only four picks. The sophomore nailed down the starting gig ahead of his follow-up season and will look to lead the SaberCats offense coming off a 1-9 campaign and, by head coach Jake Monden’s standards, “the best offseason this program has had in many years.”

Luke DeBusk (6-1, 215, So.) — Jones LB

DeBusk started every game for the Longhorns as a freshman moving back-and-forth from backer to defensive lineman and accounted for 107 tackles in the process.

Lehmantre Olds (6-4, So.) — Star-Spencer WR

Turnbull burst onto the scene as a freshman leading the Falcons to a Class 2A state title game appearance last fall. He caught his stride in the postseason, posting big performances against Sequoyah-Claremore and Victory Christian en route to the championship game in Edmond. With several offensive weapons returning and another offseason under his belt, Turnbull’s sophomore year could yield similar results.

Jett McCoy (6-2, 170, So.) — Westmoore WR

McCoy will be utilized both in the slot and near the boundary this season. With his length and seamless cuts at the top of his routes, McCoy can have success making plays away from his body. He is also a standout baseball player for the Jaguars.

CJ Turnbull (6-1, 170, So.) — Millwood QB

A deep-threat nightmare for 2A-2 defensive coordinators, Olds tagged six trips to the end zone on opposing defenses last year — on only 10 catches — before an sidelined him for the second half of the season.

Landon Gatson (6-4, 220, So.) — Choctaw QB

There’s hardly a more anticipated newcomer at quarterback in the state than Gatson, who saw limited action as a freshman but already holds an offer from Akron, where his predecessor, Steele Wasel, signed to play last year. Gatson is in the running to take the helm of Choctaw’s spread offense, which boasts several returning weapons.

Abraham Cossio (6-1, 250, So.) — Southeast OL

Southeast’s coaching staff expects Cossio to make a big jump this year as it rebuilds its line.

Jayvion Johnson — U.S. Grant ATH

Grant head coach Alex Levescy and the Generals are looking to rebuild after struggling through the 2022 season. Newcomers like J.J., who had an excellent eighth grade year while in the program, has already proven he “can be a guy to lean on” this year.

Andrew Holmes (6-1, 185, So.) — Noble LB

Holmes burst onto the scene taking over the starting job midway through his freshman year. The Bears defense will line up in a 4-2-5 this year with emphasis taking more chances at pressuring opposing backfields.

Shawn Rounsaville Jr. (5-10, 155, So.) — Tuttle RB

In only six games of varsity action, Rounsaville went 65 carries for 391 yards and seven trips to the end zone as a freshman last fall. Tuttle head coach likes his athleticism, “great balance and toughness.”

Josh Lombard (5-11, 170, So.) — Putnam City North QB

Lombard “can make all the throws,” said head coach Derek Lane — and the kid has a name made for football. He got his feet wet in a pair of starts as a freshman and completed 35 passes for over 250 yards and a score in limited action.

RL Young — Edmond North LB

Young could be a four-year starter at linebacker for the Huskies.

Kaleb Blackwolf (6-2, 180, Fr.) — El Reno WR/DB/QB

El Reno offensive coordinator Graham Snelding will enjoy utilizing his new weapon in Blackwolf, a pass-catcher whom is expected to have a breakout debut season. He can also play quarterback.

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