Sooner Assistant Coach Bobby Jack Wright has now been the new secondary coach for three weeks, and he is still trying to find answers as to who will start where in the secondary.
With Marcus Walker mending his surgically repaired shoulder, all four defensive back spots are up for grabs this spring. For the most part, seniors Eric Bassey, Chijioke Onyenegecha and sophomore D.J. Wolfe are battling at corner. Lewis Baker and Tony Cade are dueling, with Brett Bowers also getting reps, at strong safety. And Darrien Williams has moved ahead of Jason Carter at FS.
Coach Wright admits that nothing will be decided at the end of spring because of a great recruiting class coming in for the fall. However, he has seen enough of certain players this spring to draw some early opinions on his current talent in the secondary.
JH: What are your thoughts on D.J. Wolfe, who moved from running back to corner this spring?
BJW: "All of this is new to D.J. t this point, but what I like about him is that he has a great work ethic and he is smart. D.J. wants to do well. He had a good day in our first scrimmage, so I have moved him up and given him some work with the first unit. He has a knack for the ball and he is an instinctive type of player. He understands run or pass and he is physical coming up on the run. He still has some things that he needs to understand in the passing game to get a little bit better at it, and he will once he sees more of it. D.J. just hasn't been there enough. Some of the things that bother him right now are the skinny post that he has to take away, but that will come with time. D.J. is doing a good job."
JH: With a guy like D.J., and maybe many of the other guys in the secondary, do you and Coach Stoops have to spend extra time with them to accelerate their progress?
BJW: "Yeah, on just about every play we are coaching them up. We are in zone blitzes and things like that, so he (D.J.) has a progression that he has to go through. Right now he is a little bit antsy to get out of there, which most corners are because they are worried about the deep ball all the time. Certainly, you don't want to give up the deep ball, but there is a progression that you have to go through, especially with zone blitzes.
"When we are blitzing you figure that ball is going to come pretty quick. So there are certain routes that you want to try to take away early, and you get that by just clueing into the quarterback to see what he is throwing? If they are throwing the quick game we would like to take that away, but if they are not throwing the quick game then we need to be getting out of there. There are some things that he has to learn to see and understand, so when he sees it he knows what is happening."
JH: Is D.J.'s improvement, or that of any young player, just a matter of reps sometimes?
BJW: "Sure, it is just a matter of seeing it over and over. The more he sees it the more he becomes comfortable with it and learns how to play a little bit better. For a guy who has only been there nine practices, I am encouraged where he is right now. He is a physical guy who will come up and tackle you, and he has good feet and speed. He can get back and cover ground, and he is physical in the run the game.
"There are a lot of things that I really like about D.J. He has a lot of tools that he brings to the field. D.J. is smart and prideful. He brings a lot of pride to his job and he wants to do well. That is a good start right there."
JH: How is your safety position developing?
BJW: "I really like Darrien Williams. He is really showing a knack for the ball and he is really explosive. Darrien has great range and he can cover a lot of ground. He is good in the run game, as he is a good tackler who brings a lot of punch. I am really pleased where he is progressing.
"Lewis Baker is a guy that we took out of position teaching him a new position going from linebacker to safety, so this spring is a little bit different for him. He is not quite where we need him to be, but none of them are where we would like them to be yet. Lewis is a guy who has good speed, great range, a good punch when he comes up tackle you, and he is explosive and strong. He just needs reps over and over again. It is so much different playing back there than it is up in the box."
JH: How about Tony Cade and Jason Carter?
BJW: "Tony is getting a little better, and so is Jason. I am pretty encouraged with all of those guys. At this point and time, they are about where they need to be. They are getting a little better. I felt encouraged as much about anything from Coach (Chuck) Long, who goes against them all day, after the scrimmage the other day saying that those guys (safeties) have a better understanding of their drops and where they need to be in positioning than he has seen in a while. So I thought that maybe some of this yelling and screaming was paying off."
JH: You didn't give up a deep ball in the scrimmage did you?
BJW: "No, that is right. Again, that is something that has been a point of emphasis this spring, especially as much zone as we play. There is really no excuse for giving up a deep ball because we play a lot of zone coverage, but we do mix in a little man.
"When you play man-to-man you are going to get beat some. You will get beat occasionally because guys will be faster or somebody is going to beat you. However, in zone coverage if you are playing smart and you are paying attention to your reads and things like that, then there is no reason for you to get beat deep. We are protecting you on a deep half or deep third, and that help should allow you to make more plays."
Wright encouraged by play of secondary
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