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Oklahoma LB Konnor Near, OL Christian Smith enter NCAA transfer portal

Matt Connollyby:Matt Connolly03/18/24


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Oklahoma lost a pair of players to the transfer portal on Monday as linebacker Konnor Near and offensive lineman Christian Smith entered the portal, On3 has learned.

Near appeared in all 12 games last season, receiving most of his playing time on special teams. He finished the season with seven tackles.

Smith was a walk-on from Carroll High in Southlake, Texas. He just completed his freshman season with the Sooners.

As for Konnor Near, he just wrapped up his senior season of college football, after originally being a part of the class of 2019. He still has another season of eligibility remaining.

Near transferred to Oklahoma after starting his career at Division II Ferris State. He redshirted in 2019, before the 2020 Division II season was canceled due to COVID-19.

Near received his first real college football opportunity in 2021, appearing in all 15 games and finishing with 27 tackles. In 2022, Near was a first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection. He once again played in all 15 games, this time totaling 66 tackles.

After the season, he transferred to Oklahoma, where he was a special teams contributor for the Sooners as they played their second season under new head coach Brent Venables.

Oklahoma is currently taking part in spring practice ahead of the 2024 season.

Brent Venables details where Oklahoma stands in roster building

Oklahoma and Texas are set to make the jump from the Big 12 Conference to the SEC in a matter of months, and many have wondered how well the two Big 12 stalwarts will immediately adapt to their new environment.

One bit of preparation Brent Venables wants to square away for the Sooners sooner rather than later is managing his roster. Oklahoma and Texas need SEC-level talent to succeed in their new environment. That means recruiting the biggest, strongest and fastest players out of the upcoming high school and transfer portal cycles.

“You always want more,” Venables told On3’s Andy Staples recently. It’s just how coaches are and I think if you chase winning and chase success, I think that is a mindset but you always want more bigger, longer guys, you want more depth. That’s, that’s just the way it is. I don’t know if we can ever satisfy ourselves, no doubt about it. We can compete at a really high level. We’re working hard for just daily improvement, to get better so that we can compete with competitive depth in that conference (SEC), week in and week out.

“I think that’ll be the biggest test of the program. Where we’re at is playing Texas-type teams every year. We are used to Texas — or again, there’s a lot of very successful programs right here in this conference (Big 12) as well. You look at two former Big 12 teams in Missouri and certainly Texas A&M.”