NORMAN – Last year, the ‘Wolves’ were born – some out of necessity and a lacking confidence and some from the introduction of first-year defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks.
There was an clear Alpha – Zack Sanchez.
Sanchez wasn’t the oldest member of the secondary, but he was the leader that brought the unit together. But now he’s gone. A new alpha has to take his place, but it’s not just one player.
“He just made it comfortable for everybody to be around him and to be around each other,” Oklahoma safety Ahmad Thomas said. “It just created a bond that was so close with all of us and it just made us want to play with each other, not just for ourselves but for the whole secondary and for the whole defense.”
Thomas is the veteran now, with three years of experience, but strong safety Steven Parker isn’t far behind. Dakota Austin brings an intense fire, and Will Johnson has a versatility that has him working out of the linebackers’ room.
Then there’s Jordan Thomas, who has been considered by some to be the best cornerback prospect in the country. He’s the youngest of a group that is about as well-rounded and battle-tested as a secondary can be.
“We’re all bringing it rather than just one person bringing all of it or the majority of it,” Parker said. “The whole secondary is bringing it.”
Keeping that strong personality in the secondary and a high confidence level will be key, starting in the season opener against Houston. The Cougars will test Oklahoma’s secondary in a way that will prepare them for Ohio State in the coming weeks and the Big 12 Conference season – and the spread offenses that will be prevalent each and every week.
Parker said that confidence came back from Day 1 of preseason camp. The ‘Wolves’ didn’t take long to reform their pack.
“We came out, and we were on point,” Parker said. “Everybody knew exactly what they were doing. It’s just about really just the leadership. I feel like our leadership has been there, and we’re just coming out each and every day.”
It has made this year a little bit different.
“We were hungry last year,” Parker said. “. . . We did a great job and everybody started coming together last year. I feel like this year, everyone is really getting it. To me, that’s the difference between last year and things year. I feel like we could be one of the best secondaries.”