Just like in the spring, the secondary has been the strength of the Sooner defense thus far in training camp. With Reggie Smith playing great at corner and redshirt freshman Keenan Clayton inserted into the starting line-up at strong safety, the Sooners have much more quality depth in the secondary than they did a year ago.
Legendary collegiate assistant coach Bobby Jack Wright is in charge of the Sooner secondary, and he spoke with OUInsider.com after a recent practice to give us a complete report on the progress of his group for the Two Minute Drill.
JH: Cornerback is an interesting position to watch this year isn't it?
BJW: "We have a number of veteran guys and they are showing that they have a knack for making plays. However, we have some young guys and young freshmen who are not backing off from anything. We have some real good competition going on at those corner positions."
JH: Is the fact that Keenan Clayton is now a starter a product of a great summer? Ir was this a move planned since the end of spring?
BJW: "I had hoped through the spring that he would possibly be the guy because of all the natural talent that he has. He is big, strong, fast and explosive. He has a lot of great tools. He had a good spring and a great summer, so I threw him in there the first couple of days and he hasn't done anything to disappoint. He is about to lock that job down."
JH: Marcus Walker looks like he is back playing at 100 percent?
BJW: "Yeah, I am really pleased with Marcus. He has had five great days of practice so far. He looks like his old self and he has his confidence back. He is really flying around and making a lot of plays. I am really feeling good about him."
JH: Wouldn't you say that when Walker has been healthy he has been a productive player for you?
BJW: "I would have to say yes, but he has not been healthy very often. He has had a lot of time in the training room. He is a talented guy who is a really savvy corner with good tools. I think he is really responding well and coming back well off of his injuries. I think he is going to have a heck of a year if he keeps going the way that he is."
JH: You have tried some different combinations in your nickel and dime packages. What options do you have there?
BJW: "Right now we have worked Reggie there some and we have worked Nic (Harris) there some. Nic is showing that he is really pretty good down in there low. He is a big, physical guy which really helps us a little bit as far as the run game. It allows Reggie to remain at corner, where I really feel he has a chance to be somebody really special. Right now I would say that Nic would be our guy at nickel. It helps us keep good, quality depth at the corner as well, because now we don't have to move Reggie down in there so we have the same depth at corner that we have when we are in base. We really like that combination, especially with the fact that Nic is playing it so well."
JH: Is D.J. Wolfe nicked up a little bit?
BJW: "Yeah, he tweaked a hamstring and we held him out a little bit. It is nothing serious."
JH: It seems like the attitude on defense is better and that they are practicing like a mature group that knows what they need to do. You do not have to line them up all the time now do you?
BJW: "Yeah, that has been kind of pleasant that I am not back there hoarse yet this year yelling and screaming getting guys lined up. Just having some experience under your belt, as we talked the other day during media day, all of those guys now have 12 games under their belt and for the most part for all of them having been as a unit together. They have played together all season long and I think that means a lot, because experience means a tremendous amount, especially good experience.
"If we would have had to stop the season after the first five games last year I would tell you that experience wasn't very good, because we weren't very good early as everybody knows. Those guys really gelled and worked hard. They came together and we finished up and had a good year. Those guys really played well down the stretch of the last seven ball games or so.
"Then you throw in the spring time when they had some more reps together and the experience factor, and the team factor of the whole group playing together as one is starting to bring some confidence to the group and a little bit of maturity. No question."
JH: Is Brian Jackson totally healthy from his injuries in the spring?
BJW: "No, he is still about three-quarters speed. So he is not quite back to where he needs to be from a physical standpoint. He has not been able to get into the mix yet because he is not able to go."
JH: Even with Jackson still not 100 percent, you have enough corners to lock up with any spread offense in man coverage if you want don't you?
BJW: "Absolutely, that is a good point. And with our nickel package not having to move Reggie, that gives us Reggie, D.J., Marcus and Lendy Holmes at corner. Also, freshmen Jonathan Nelson and Dominique Franks are two really good young players who may see some playing time this year. I have been impressed with them. So yeah, we have good depth there with some quality guys."
Wright says secondary shaping up nicely
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