Player in Focus: Julian Wilson

Senior's first game at cornerback will tell a lot for Sooners

Saturday might just be the day Julian Wilson has waited five years to see.

He was recruited as a cornerback but was routinely passed over for whatever reason, left to muddle in the world of nickel back, where he actually rushed more last year than he dropped into coverage.

But now he’s finally where he set out to be from the start of his career.

It looks like he has been there the whole time.

“He went all summer doing it. Then, when we got a chance to work with him, it looked like he’d been doing it for five years,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

Players like Aaron Colvin and then Zack Sanchez had the first shot at corner and never let up, so Wilson bided his time and waited for his chance. He bounced around to just about every position in the secondary.

This year will be his chance to prove that his prototypical body size will be a perfect fit at corner. He’s 6-foot-2. He’s has great speed. He has incredible length. He’s smart.

With three years of playing experience, he’s ready.

“It feels good, but the work is far from being done,” Wilson said. “I can’t sit back and get comfortable because now I’m the starter. All the young guys are out there competing every day. They are holding my playing ability to a higher standard.”

That necessity starts Saturday against Louisiana Tech. With an offense that likes to spread opposing defenses from sideline to sideline, Wilson will be counted on to lock down his man. Bubble screens and quick, spread-formation runs will be prevalent Saturday, meaning that Wilson and Sanchez will be required to hold down the edges so that Oklahoma doesn’t have to spread too thin in the middle of the defense.

Mastering that individual responsibility will be a key for Wilson to show the Sooners’ coaching staff that they didn’t make the wrong decision in trusting him as a key cog in a defense with plenty of expectations.

“We know what we need to do as a defense,” Wilson said. “We’re not perfect. We can’t get caught up in what the media has to say because let’s say we go out there and play terrible on Saturdays, then we’re going to be the worst defense in the Big 12.”

Wilson never asked to be switched to cornerback, the possibility arose with the development of Eric Striker. The pass-rushing stalwart had improved enough in coverage during the off-season that the defensive staff thought of moving him to nickel in pass situations.

Stoops asked a simple question.

“Who would you rather have rushing out there? Eric or Julian?”

Thus, the switch was made. So far, the experiment of returning Wilson to the position he originally was recruited to play has found the right mix.

“It went as good as I could have ever hoped for,” Stoops said.

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