Spring football is done at Oklahoma. The Sooners were able to get everything they could from 14 practices and the spring game and now the focus goes toward the 2015 season.
So what did we learn? Sooners Illustrated is going to take a position-by-position approach to see what we know now (or what we don’t know) going forward at OU.
Most of the talk regarding the safety position – or the secondary as a whole – this spring has revolved around four players: One that should be the standout of the group and three still aren’t even on campus.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has repeatedly fawned over rising sophomore Steven Parker, who seems like he’ll be a perfect fit at nickel. Stoops hasn’t stopped the merry-go-round retort that Oklahoma needs its three freshmen safeties – Prentice McKinney, Will Sunderland and Kahlil Haughton – for numbers’ sake.
You can’t help but get the feeling that it might be a little for talent’s sake as well.
“I’ll feel a lot better when he get those three safeties in here,” Stoops said when asked if he feels relief over the young defensive backs playing better. “I’ll feel a lot better. Right now, we’re thin in the secondary. That shows every day. We’re going to need all three of those guys to come in and contribute – either be back-ups or push the guy we have here. That’s just how it is.”
In the spring game, Oklahoma didn’t run any straight dime – six defensive backs – formations because they were too thin. Will Johnson was playing dime and nickel because Parker had to play safety due to rotations.
It’s impossible to not feel like returning safeties Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas are the odd men out, likely with only one starting spot for the two of them. Outside of Parker, they are the only two on the roster with any kind of real game experience.
Last year’s game experience wasn’t all that comforting either as Oklahoma was one of the worst pass defenses in the country. The spring was about working to change that. The preseason and fall will be about proving that it’s true – not just talking about it.
“We’re just trying to better ourselves. Last year is last year,” Byrd said. “We’re just trying to improve from where we were last year. That helped out tremendously. The offseason helped us out tremendously. Everybody came together like I was saying and communication got a lot better. Everybody’s close now. We’re like a family.”
A family with three new members who still haven’t arrived yet.