Fall Report: Oklahoma
Oklahoma might be in one of the more unique situations of any team as fall workouts continue. Talk to those around the Sooners program, and there’s a great deal of excitement about the upcoming 2016 campaign, which is interesting considering the Sooners have 21 new players on the fall roster.
Typically, you’d look at a roster like that and think a rebuilding year is in the making. But, not with this Oklahoma team, and not with the projected one-two punch in the weekend rotation, which consists of two of the nation’s elite arms in righthanders Alec Hansen and Jake Elliott. For all intents and purposes, Hansen is one of the nation’s top two college prospects for the upcoming draft, while Elliott is a pro-bodied pitcher that often make some scouts salivate.
Hansen and Elliott only can do so much, but this Oklahoma team does appear to have the talented pieces needed to make a real stand in the spring. There’s a plethora of elite freshman talent, while there are just enough key pieces back in the field to have a productive offense.
“We have 21 new guys, and we’ve pretty much overhauled a vast majority of our team,” Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes said. “This is our first real recruiting class on campus, and I really love the depth of it. We’ve got some really good pitching depth, and there are a lot of arms in this class that are going to give us immediate, positive, contributions.”
With holes to fill, it’s important to realize just what Oklahoma needs to replace this fall. The Sooners lost several players to the draft this past summer, including five pitchers — Jacob Evans, Robert Tasin and Adam Choplick included — and a few key position players, including second baseman Kolbey Carpenter, catchers Anthony Hermelyn and Chris Shaw, and athletic outfielder Craig Aikin.
Replacing those player won’t be easy for Hughes and his suddenly young Sooners, but it’s a challenge he feels like can be overcome by the time the season rolls around.
“You can really pick your spots with a lot of these guys, and the younger guys,” Hughes told D1Baseball.com. “I haven’t enjoyed fall baseball like this in a long, long time. We have strong relationships from recruiting with a lot of these kids, and they are emotionally invested in our staff and what this program wants to do moving forward.”
We’ll break down several of these players below, but the upcoming season is an important one for Hughes and his coaching staff. There’s no doubt the Sooners are recruiting at an impressive level, but the success needs to be seen on the field. OU went 28-27 in Hughes’ first year — a common occurrence for a new regime — and finished the 2015 campaign with a 34-27 overall record, which isn’t horrible, but also without a postseason berth.
With Hansen and Elliott, and others, there’s no reason why this program shouldn’t turn the tide in a positive direction, and perhaps even accomplish more than expected.
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