NORMAN, Okla. — In last year's 38-28 loss to Oklahoma State the Sooners came up terribly short at safety. OU was in the impossible situation of replacing the all-world Roy Williams and they weren't even coming close by playing redshirt freshman Eric Bassey, a true corner, out of position at strong safety. And before the game started, Bradon Everage sprung his knee walking down the ramp for pregame warm-ups. The injury was so bad that he should have never played in the game, but Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops admits that he let Everage talk him into letting him play and that it was a great mistake. Everage couldn't move and by the time Stoops got him out of the game and the Sooners were four touchdowns in the rear.
Shoring up the safety position was a major priority this year and the Sooners struck gold. Everage had surgery on both shoulders and outside of a couple of stingers has played injury free. Sophomore Brodney Pool has emerged as a superstar and has first round draft choice written all over him. However, it was the recruitment of Donte Nicholson that really sealed the deal. The Sooners almost lost him to Arizona State, but once they signed him they felt they had a safety in the Williams mold, who was intelligent, physical, could run and is a sure tackler.
Nicholson has been playing the 'Roy Williams' position when the Sooners go to five defensive backs, and he then lines up at strong safety when the Sooners go with four DBs. He is playing at an All-Conference level, and earlier this week he sat down with OUInsider.com to talk about the upcoming game with OSU.
JH: What is it about this defense where the safeties appear to play such a big role?
DN: "That is a good question. I guess the defense is sort of designed for the linebackers and the safeties. They use us a lot more than any other defense in college football. We do a lot more blitzing and we put a lot more pressure on the line of scrimmage. We have to cover in the slot or deep in the secondary, but we have the freedom and the ability to run and make plays."
JH: You are playing the 'Roy Williams' position, so what have you learned about the difficulty of the position? And what do you like about it and what is tough about it?
DN: " It is a tough position to play because you have to be physically and mentally ready to play. Our body is going to take a physical beating, because you are playing down that low. At my body weight I am not used to going up against those 300-pound big-body type guys, but I use my speed and quickness to my advantage and hold up. You are always learning and that is basically it."
JH: You were noted as a physical player coming out of junior college, so do you view yourself as that kind of player?
DN: "Yeah, I view myself as a physical player. I like contact and I am certainly not afraid of contact. It is different at this level because there is a lot harder hitting going on and the players are bigger, but I still think I am a physical player."
JH: Your position is a hybrid position, because while you must be physical you must also be able to turn, run and cover, isn't that right?
DN: "Yes, you must be able to cover the slot man. It is a very demanding position. And like I said earlier, there is always a major plan for the Roy position. In each defense when the Roy is on the field he has a major role in each defensive scheme."
JH: Due to OSU's balance, does that put you in an even bigger role this Saturday?
DN: "Yeah, Oklahoma State has a real good offense. They can run the ball well and they can throw the ball. Rashaun Woods is an incredible receiver and Tatum Bell is an outstanding runner. They are a very good offense, but we just have to come into the game ready to play both mentally and physically. We can have a great defense as well and we are certainly talented enough to stop them if we execute our defense."
JH: When you go up against a great wide receiver, don't you have to trust that you are a great athlete as well?
DN: "Yes, you have to go out there confident. If you go out there not confident in yourself then you are bound to mess up and do something wrong. You always have to stay confident, and I have confidence in my abilities."
JH: OSU throws the ball up almost in a jump ball situation for Woods and he goes up and gets it. However, when teams usually do that against OU it is OU that comes up with the interceptions. Who will win the battle of wills on Saturday?
DN: "We believe in our abilities and we are going to challenge Woods and their wide receiver corp. We are going to rush Fields, you can count on that. Woods will try to come down with the jump ball, but so we will, and we will be ready to challenge him on Saturday."
Nicholson brings the 'Roy Factor' to OU's defense
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