Move to corner bringing out the best in Bassey

Junior cornerback Eric Bassey talks about his solid performance and added size this spring, replacing Derrick Strait and facing OU's talented receivers in practice.

NORMAN, Okla. — Junior cornerback Eric Bassey has been one of the big pluses of the Sooners Spring Practice thus far, as he has stepped in for All-American Derrick Strait and done a super job on the shortside corner.

Coming into the spring many of us who followed OU football wondered if Bassey could do the job, but thus far he has proven to not only be able to do the job, but to do it quite well. Bassey has played so well that now even when Chijioke Onyenegecha is totally healthy he will not be guaranteed a starting job ahead of Bassey.

That competition will be interesting, but if Bassey continues to play the way that he has then the starting job will be his in the fall. Recently after a Sooner practice, Bassey sat down to talk to on the Two Minute Drill.

JH: You have been one of the best players in camp this fall and all the defensive coaches seem totally pleased with your effort. How do you feel about that?

EB: "It makes me feel real good. Just the fact that I had to take a seat last year and sit down and watch Derrick Strait, and make that transition back to corner has made me ready to step up and to be the leader that the team needs me to be."

JH: Did the year you started at safety throw you out of sync so-to-be-speak, because you are a natural corner and not a true safety?

EB: "Any time you get game experience I don't think you want to take that away. The fact that I had 13 or 14 games of game experience on the field allowed me to see things and to get a feel for how it is to play in front of a big crowd. In my head the crowd is not a factor for me anymore, and all the pregame rituals are not a factor for me or bother me anymore. That is all due to the fact that I had that year to start at safety. I wouldn't take it back. If I could have played corner that year I would have chosen to play corner, but safety didn't do anything but make me more aggressive as a corner."

JH: Hasn't the physical nature of playing safety made you a more physical corner?

EB: "Definitely, it helped my physical play corner. I was 188 pounds at safety my redshirt freshman year and I had to go up against tight ends, big fullbacks, and some of the biggest running backs in the entire country are in the Big 12 Conference.Now I go back to corner with 15 more pounds of muscle and the weight drops on the receivers who go 185 to 190. Now I am the bigger corner to them."

JH: So you're 200-plus pounds now?

EB: "Yes, and that is what I wanted to do this year. I have picked it up to about 202 pounds and I think that is what I am going to try to play at."

JH: What do you still run the forty in?

EB: "I still run in the same way, and I hope to get my time down in the 4.2 range before I get out of here. I am in the 4.3 area right now."

JH: I know you always had to work on your technique at corner, so how is that going?

EB: "I think that is the only difference between a safety and a corner. It is the technique and the footwork that we have to have. It is the technique and the footwork ability to play corner, where you don't have to have that much as a safety. That is where the transition was so tough, but I think that is with anybody that plays corner. It is tough for everybody to get their technique down, but once they do the secondary will be pretty good."

JH: You and Brandon Jones are really getting after it at practice, and the trash talking is fun to listen too.

EB: "I said last week that he caught a couple of good passes on me, but I think I got his number today. I think that match-up really fits me and him. He likes going against a bigger corner and I like going against a bigger receiver like BJ. I think that is a great match-up and will continue to give all of you a show."

JH: The wide receiver core that you face everyday at practice is ranked No. 1 in the country by The Sporting News. So if you can have success against them you have to figure you can have success against anybody, right?

EB: "I think that is the key for the DBs. We are always going to have a good group of DBs because we practice against the best receivers in the country every day. I don't know if we are going to line up against a wide receiver core that is as good as our receiver core. I think any time we go out in the game the talent level is going do drop because I think at practice we are facing the best-of-the-best."

JH: You are also not going to face better quarterbacks than a guy who just won the Heisman Trophy (Jason White) and then the fourth rated prep (Tommy Grady) in the country. And then coming in is the No. 1 guy (Rhett Bomar) in the country, so you aren't going to find many quarterbacks better either are you? Hey, I can't forget Paul Thompson who can start for a number of teams in the Big 12 Conference.

EB: "Nope, we are not going to face any better quarterbacks or receivers than we are facing now in practice. I am not sure we will face a better offensive line either. I can't comment on anybody else's team, but our team has a great group on offense and that is only going to make the defense stronger and better. Hopefully, we can make another run for a National Championship."

JH: Chuck Long was a star quarterback at Iowa, and I saw him throw a few as the quarterbacks were changing out between drills. Does he still throw a good ball?

EB: "Coach Long has a nice ball. Out of all the balls thrown from the quarterbacks he throws the tightest spiral except for Jason's. He has a nice ball. I don't know if he competed too many passes, but he throws a nice ball."

JH: You are replacing one of the greatest players in Sooner history in Derrick Strait and somebody has to step up and replace Brandon Everage, a four year starter, in the secondary. So there are some big shoes to fill, aren't there?

EB: "If you remember I was in a similar position not too long ago replacing the great Roy Williams, so replacing great players is nothing new to me. It goes right over my head, because I have already faced that pressure and controversy whether I did a good job replacing Roy or not. I played that position and I played my heart out, and I am going to do the same thing here at corner. I am going to replace a great player in Derrick, but our two-deep or three-deep could play for just about anybody in the country. So, I don't know if we are going to have any talent loss or not.

"Of course, you can't replace guys like Derrick, Roy or Brandon, but you can sure get in there and reload with them. I think that is what we are going to do. B. Pool is one of the best athletes out here and maybe in college football. Then you have Donte Nicholson, who can more than hold his own. So, we have a great situation with a lot of DB's. I don't think we are going to lose too much."

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