Monday, March 4, 2013
Position breakdown: Safety
By Jake Trotter
NORMAN, Okla. -- No position on the Oklahoma roster is more up in the air heading into spring than safety. The Sooners lost their top three back safeties off last year’s team, including starters Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris, who have been fixtures in the OU secondary. How Mike Stoops retools the safety position will go a long way in determining whether the Sooners win the Big 12 championship in 2013.
It will be interesting to see what Stoops does with Gabe Lynn and Julian Wilson. The nickel and dime backs last year seem more suited playing close to the line of scrimmage and covering man-to-man than operating as the last line of defense.
Junior defensive back Julian Wilson could be an option at safety in 2013.
Ideally, the Sooners would like to leave Lynn and Wilson where they’ve been. But that’s contingent on someone else emerging at back safeties.
Quentin Hayes was being groomed to be a starter at free or strong safety and put together a string of impressive spring practices last year. But after violating “university rules,” he was suspended indefinitely and never stepped on the field in 2012. Hayes will be given another shot this spring to prove himself, both on and off the field. But his margin for error is slim.
Both of OU’s incoming true freshman safeties will probably have to contribute in some form, and also have a decent shot of starting.
Three-star prospect Ahmad Thomas enrolled in spring ball early, and if he holds his own, he could nail down one of those starting roles. But in the fall, he’ll have to fend off four-star recruit Hatari Byrd, who turned down offers from Georgia and Notre Dame to sign with the Sooners. Both Thomas and Byrd are big, physical safeties that can also cover, and figure to be cornerstone of the OU defense in future years. The Sooners, however, need that future to being this year.
The last guy to watch in the safety battle is Trey Franks. The former receiver was suspended along with Hayes and missed the entire 2012 season. But Franks does have one thing going for him, and that is top-end speed. That could make him a factor down the line.