The finale of the depth chart preview ends with a group chalk full of high star recruits, and some returning players ready to improve in 2017, a year with some highs and lows for the secondary. They lose a lot of experience in Will Johnson, Steven Parker, and despite his lackluster 2017, Jordan Thomas. Those three spent a ton of time on the field in 2017, and made some great plays, but they ranked nearly 90th in pass defense, and will have to improve if they want to compete for a Big 12 championship.
Last season, Parnell Motley exploded onto the scene, before falling into the typical OU secondary situations. He is a hard hitter, and has the ability to cover the deep ball if he can stay healthy and focused on his job.
2017 also featured the Tre’s – Tre Norwood and Tre Brown showed some big improvements, and another year under their belt should help them learn how to better cover routes, and make some big plays down the stretch. The three of these guys should present a fun rotation, and Mike Stoops hopes it can help keep them all fresh in a lot of games that should feature pass-heavy schemes.
At safety, senior Kahlil Haughton played in some key moments when Will Johnson dealt with some injuries, and his size and speed can help him replace Steven Parker’s big hitting role at safety. OU hopes Haughton has a break out year, and improves on his numbers like he has each year at OU. Another returning player is Robert Barnes, a high caliber recruit who played some key moments, and didn’t seem ready to handle the pressure. He was a consensus top 50 recruit, and will need to step up if he wants his future playing time at OU to improve.
New face in the secondary
There is really only one name I need to mention here, and he hopes to burst on the scene and become a superstar for the Sooners from day one. Brendan Radley-Hiles has star potential, NFL draft potential, and certainly Big 12 DPOY potential. He enrolled early, showed some serious skill level in the spring game, and has high expectations heading into 2018. “Bookie” as he’s normally referred to has the ability to play anywhere in the secondary, and will likely test out a few spots when weak areas are discovered early in the season. All eyes will be on him when the Sooner defense steps on the field, and people should see him do some incredible things, whether it’s ball-hawking or producing big hits to the opposition.
This group will be key to the Sooners success in 2018, and the strides the entire team hopes to make on that side of the ball. If the defense can make improvements in pass coverage then the defense will look much improved in 2018. A lot of players will have to take on elevated leadership roles, and it will be crucial to find out the ones ready to lead and make plays for Stoops’ defense.