Oklahoma Sooners: Antwuan Davis

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: DBs

February, 26, 2014
As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Wednesday with defensive backs. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the defensive back groups going into the spring:

1. TCU: TCU has been tenacious defending the pass since joining the league, and even without potential first-round pick Jason Verrett, that shouldn’t change in 2014. Sam Carter was the only non-senior to earn first-team or second-team All-Big 12 honors in the secondary last season, and Chris Hackett was one of the best underclassman defensive backs in the league last year. Derrick Kindred is primed to step into TCU’s third safety spot after playing a key role in the rotation. The Horned Frogs also add the nation’s No. 3 juco safety in Kenny Iloka. Throw in senior Geoff Hooker, and the Horned Frogs have an impressive five-man rotation at safety. At corner, Kevin White was honorable mention All-Big 12 last year, and will take over for Verrett as the primary corner. The Horned Frogs have several options at the other corner, including incoming three-star recruit Nick Foster.

2. Texas: After playing the nickel role last year, Quandre Diggs will settle back at cornerback in place of Carrington Byndom. Opposite Diggs will be the ultra-athletic Duke Thomas, who was so good in spring ball last year, he forced the coaches to move Diggs to nickelback. Together, Diggs and Thomas could give the Longhorns the best cornerback tandem in the league. Antwuan Davis, who redshirted in his first year, was an ESPN 300 signee and figures to play a big role somewhere in the secondary. Josh Turner (37 appearances) and Mykkele Thompson (12 starts in 2013) each bring a lot of experience at safety.

3. Oklahoma: Oklahoma graduates the heart and soul of the secondary in cornerback Aaron Colvin, who gutted his way through an array of injuries last year. But if the Sooners can find an adequate replacement for him, the Big 12’s best pass defense statistically in 2013 should be stout again. Julian Wilson (nickelback), Zack Sanchez (cornerback) and Quentin Hayes (strong safety) all return as starters, though Hayes could be pushed by Ahmad Thomas and incoming freshman Steven Parker for time. Hatari Byrd, an ESPN 300 signee last year, should step into the vacant spot at free safety. Cortez Johnson will try to fend off Stanvon Taylor, who played as a true freshman, for Colvin’s spot in the only real uncertain area of this secondary.

4. Kansas State: The Wildcats will miss All-Big 12 performer Ty Zimmerman, but his cohort, Dante Barnett, was one of the best young safeties in the league last year. Barnett was third on the team with 75 tackles and first with four interceptions. Randall Evans also returns after leading the team in pass breakups and gives the Wildcats a versatile defensive back. As usual, Bill Snyder will also be looking for some juco impact. He should get it in Danzel McDaniel, who was the No. 4 juco CB recruit in the country. Cornerback Jesse Mack also could prove to be a key juco signee. If both players pan out, this could become one of the better defensive backfields in the league.

5. West Virginia: The bad news is the Mountaineers had the Big 12’s worst pass defense last year. The good news is they bring back three starters. Karl Joseph has started the last two seasons at free safety, though he could slide to the strong side with Darwin Cook gone. Joseph has All-Big 12 potential, and he needs to elevate his game for the West Virginia defense to take another step forward. Veteran K.J. Dillon could be the front-runner for the job alongside Joseph, though Jeremy Tyler and Jarrod Harper will also be in the mix. West Virginia also brings back both starting cornerbacks in senior Ishmael Banks and Daryl Worley, who started as a freshman. The Mountaineers also signed Keishawn Richardson, the No. 8 juco CB, and Jaylon Myers, the No. 9 juco safety, for depth. Cornerback Dravon Henry, an ESPN 300 signee who had offers from Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State, could play immediately if one of West Virginia’s veterans struggle.

6. Kansas: The Jayhawks return all five starters from their secondary, including last year’s Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, strong safety Isaiah Johnson. Returning cornerbacks Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd, a converted wide receiver, were both honorable mention All-Big 12 selections and give the Jayhawks one of the better corner duos in the league. Free safety Cassius Sendish started every game and had 12 tackles in Kansas’ only Big 12 victory in 2013, over West Virginia. Nickelback Courtney Arnick started in six games as a redshirt freshman. If this group collectively improves, Kansas could field a solid defense in 2014.

7. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose All-Big 12 cornerback Justin Gilbert, who might be selected high in the first round of the NFL draft after a stellar combine performance. The Cowboys welcome back one of the best young corners in the league in Kevin Peterson, who was terrific as a sophomore in coverage opposite Gilbert. Ashton Lampkin has experience, and he will likely fill the other corner spot unless someone else emerges. Lyndell Johnson, who made a transition from linebacker to safety last season, will take over full time at strong safety. The Cowboys will need someone else to emerge at the other safety in place of departed veteran starter Daytawion Lowe. Deric Robertson, Tre Flowers, Jordan Sterns, Taylor Lewis and Darius Curry, all from the 2013 recruiting class, are possibilities.

8. Texas Tech: How the Red Raiders retool here will be on one of the bigger spring storylines in Lubbock. Keenon Ward and Justis Nelson were thrown in the fire as freshmen last year, and they will be counted on to fill bigger roles. The gem of the incoming recruiting class, four-star cornerback Nigel Bethel II, could be asked – and has the capability – to play right away. The Red Raiders have to replace both starting safeties, including freshman Tanner Jacobson, who is going on a Mormon mission. To compensate, Tech signed six safeties, including Josh Keys, the No. 5 juco safety in the country, who had offers from Auburn, Georgia and Oklahoma State. Getting strong safety J.J. Gaines back from a season-ending injury will be a boost, too.

9. Baylor: The Bears are one of several teams in the league that were decimated in the secondary by graduation. Baylor loses four of its five starters, including All-American safety Ahmad Dixon. Safety Terrell Burt is the only returning starter, leaving the other four spots up for grabs. The Bears signed juco corners Tion Wright and Chris Sanders to help fill the void. Both are already on campus and will be battling Xavien Howard, Ryan Reid and Tyler Stephenson for a starting job. Orion Stewart, who backed up Dixon as a redshirt freshman, will likely step in his role, and fellow sophomore Kiante’ Griffin will be the favorite to take over at the nickel.

10. Iowa State: Cornerback Nigel Tribune was the only true freshman to play for the Cyclones last year, and he received votes as Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Tribune, however, is the only returning starter. Veteran safety mainstays Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield are gone. In response, the Cyclones will look for Devron Moore and Qujuan Floyd, the Nos. 6 and 7 juco safety recruits, respectively, to step in immediately.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops looks at his secondary and knows he needs to add additional young talent to the roster. Demontre Hurst, Lamar Harris, Jesse Paulsen and Javon Harris are seniors while key playmakers Tony Jefferson and Aaron Colvin are juniors.

Even though OU signed prep defensive backs Zack Sanchez and Gary Simon in February, signing a few talented youngsters in the class of 2013 is a top priority.

“We have to sign five quality players in the back end,” Stoops said. “We have to sign a class of quality players that can come in and play at this level.”

The Sooners are in hot pursuit of several talented secondary players including cornerbacks Maurice Smith (Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles), Cole Luke (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop) along with safeties Erik Huhn (Cibolo, Texas/Steele), Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif/Rancho Cucamonga) and Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos De Nila). OU is also looking at a trio of in-state defensive backs.
It wasn't expected to be a big weekend for Oklahoma, but the Sooners picked up a huge commitment from running back Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray) on Saturday. Bob Przybylo answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting in his mailbag every Monday. Got a question for Bob? Send it to his mailbag at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

Greg Bryant
Courtesy of Corey LongESPNU Watch List RB Greg Bryant chose OU over offers from LSU, USC, Florida State, Georgia and others.
Ben in San Antonio asks: How surprising was Bryant’s commitment? I hoped he would commit but never thought it would happen.

Bob Przybylo: It was very surprising, Ben. Few could have seen it coming. Heck, not even Bryant saw it coming. After spending less than two days in Norman, Okla., Bryant had a feeling that OU was the right spot for him.

Bryant, who hadn't been vocal lately about his interest in the Sooners, said that Saturday changed everything. He loved the family atmosphere at OU and feels like he could compete immediately for a starting running back spot. He is very excited about this opportunity.

Bryant was seriously looking at visiting USC, South Carolina and Notre Dame before committing on Saturday. He said taking more visits was part of his plan, but his plans have now changed. Things aren’t progressing as much with defensive recruits, but Bryant has OU fans feeling good again.

Brian in Edmond, Okla., asks: I keep seeing all these top-tier recruits slipping through our fingers and committing elsewhere. Since defense is the priority for 2013, please give me some good news regarding our stance on the defensive side of the ball? Besides Justin Manning, which would be a huge disappointment if he committed somewhere else, give me a few guys who are on the so-called “short list.”

Bob Przybylo: Stay patient, Brian, as OU is making good progress on the defensive side of the ball even if the commits aren’t rolling in.

Recruits to be on the lookout for are defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) and linebacker Chans Cox (Pinetop, Ariz./Blue Ridge). Both have expressed big-time interest in the Sooners and OU has made them a priority.

Defensive back continues to be an intriguing spot. Things should clear up this month regarding some top cornerbacks such as Cole Luke (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop) and Maurice Smith (Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles), who all attended Texas' spring game on Sunday but were not offered. OU is in the hunt for all three and next few weeks will be interesting.

Cody in Wichita, Kan., asks: I get that Max Browne is the No. 1 quarterback, but has Josh Heupel alienated the other quarterbacks with this philosophy?

In the last two weeks, Oklahoma has picked up its first two verbal commits for the 2013 class, easing the minds of some of its fans. Will a third one be coming to the Sooners this week? Bob Przybylo answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting in his mailbag every Monday. Got a question for Bob? Send it to his mailbag at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

[+] EnlargeMax Browne
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comJunior QB Max Browne could make his college decision this summer.
Matt in Oklahoma City asks: I’m liking the early direction of this class. Is there a chance the Sooners pick up another commit this week?

Bob Przybylo: There’s always a chance, but is it likely? No. Heading into OU’s March 3 junior day, running back Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Ranch) and defensive end Matt Dimon (Katy, Texas/Katy) were on the short list of potential commits. It wasn’t a huge shock to see either of them give their pledge.

However, the other recruits on that list have let it be known they’re going to wait, at least for now. Defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) and defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball), for instance, are still high on the Sooners’ board and they’re still high on OU. But it will be a while before a decision is made.

And to end any rumor or thoughts of it happening, there is no way quarterback Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) commits to OU in the next couple of weeks. But the Sooners are in the conversation and things will be very interesting during the summer as Browne wants to make his decision before the end of his junior year.

Frank in Phoenix asks: Dimon is a good commit, and I don’t want to take anything away from him. But looking at some of the other defensive ends in the nation, it feels like OU had to settle for Dimon. Am I wrong?

Bob Przybylo: No, you’re just too quick to judge the defensive ends class at this point. Dimon is a quality defensive end with good size at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. There won’t be any questions about his attitude or work ethic.

Where you are right is that there are other highly-rated ends on OU’s radar. If the Sooners were only targeting one defensive end for this class, maybe Dimon wouldn’t have been the No. 1 choice.

But this class of 2013 is going to have defensive mentality. OU will get at least a couple more defensive ends, and the Sooners aren’t out of it with some of those top recruits. Though Dimon said it wasn’t the case last week, there is always a chance he could be moved to defensive tackle before it’s all said and done, too.

Jimmy in Dodge City, Kan., asks: One non-Max Browne name on offense for this class and one non-D.J. Ward name on defense that would be a shot in the arm for this class?

Bob Przybylo: OU’s focus has been on offensive tackle, but the Sooners aren’t in a good position right now with the recruits they have offered. Instead of a wish list, I'm going to go with the realistic route.

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Przybylo's Mailbag: Manning taking time 

March, 12, 2012
With Oklahoma’s second junior day in the books, things are starting to become more clear in regards to how OU is approaching its 2013 class. Bob Przybylo answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting in his mailbag every Monday. Got a question for Bob? Send it to his mailbag at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

Jeff in San Antonio asks: Junior day was progress with defensive tackle Justin Manning. But is he a big of a lock as people think?

Bob Przybylo: That’s a question that has been on the minds of a lot of people in the last week. OU wanted to make the offer special with defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) by doing it in person, but the relationship before then wasn’t that strong.

Manning was a little confused by the lack of OU interest during the last couple of months. He is very happy about getting the offer and feels things are great between him and OU defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp. In taking so long, however, the OU coaches are in a real race to gain his commitment. He is not a slam dunk for the Sooners as OU will have to pursue him hard. If the Sooners had jumped out ahead early, maybe that wouldn’t be the case. But OU waited and will have to impress Manning.

Tim in Tulsa, Okla., asks: That’s the first time I’ve seen Stevie Clark play. That kid can shoot. Does OU have a shot at him?

Stevie Clark
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comJunior in-state point guard Stevie Clark already has several offers.
Bob Przybylo: The most common email/tweet that I've received in the last 24 hours has been about 2013 point guard Stevie Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass). Clark, ranked No. 58 in the ESPNU Super 60, has 15 offers at this point and is wide open.

Clark was special all season for Douglass but saved his best games for the biggest stage, scoring 40 points in both the semifinal and championship games over the weekend.

Clark has gone from a pure shooter to an all-around point guard. His academics are in order, and OU coach Lon Kruger has done all the right things regarding Clark in the last month. Clark is in no rush at this point.

For people that only saw him for the first time this weekend, it is obvious Clark can shoot. However, what helped Clark make that leap has been his court vision and passing ability. He wouldn’t have made some of those passes Saturday when he was younger.

Charles in Austin, Texas, asks: Is there a real OU-Texas battle that we can possibly win in this class?

Bob Przybylo: If it’s strictly OU and Texas, the best scenario is defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton). Ward is becoming more and more familiar and comfortable with the OU program.

But if you’re looking at Texas products, keep an eye on two defensive backs in Maurice Smith (Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles) and Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop).

Smith said last week that he was close to committing to OU on junior day. More teams are coming after Smith each day, but right now it looks like it’s the Sooners and Longhorns and everybody else.

Davis has expressed interest in seeing the OU campus and hopes to make a visit for either a spring practice or the Red-White game April 14.

Fred in Clinton, Okla., asks: With the injury to Daniel Brooks, do you think that makes it more probable for OU to take two running backs in this class?

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Analysis: Top targets still on OU's board 

February, 27, 2012
A good weekend for Texas doesn’t automatically mean a huge loss for Oklahoma. Because let’s get one thing straight immediately -- it was definitely another successful junior day for the Longhorns this weekend.

Texas landed three more commits to give the Longhorns nine for the 2013 class. Two of them, linebacker Deoundrei Davis (Cypress, Texas/Woods) and wide receiver Jacorey Warrick (Houston/Cypress Falls), had OU offers.

[+] EnlargeJustin Manning
Damon Sayles/ESPN.comJunior defensive tackle Justin Manning, who has an offer from Texas, will be at Oklahoma's junior day on Saturday.
And so far through the first real month of 2013 recruiting, Texas is holding a 6-0 edge against the Sooners in head-to-head battles.

However, take a closer look at the battles. Were any of the six realistic OU targets? They were certainly on the Sooners wish list, but did OU have a solid shot at quarterback Tyrone Swoopes (Whitewright, Texas/Whitewright), wide receivers Warrick and Jake Oliver (Dallas/Jesuit), linemen Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas/Celina) and A'Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights) and Davis?

Isn’t it more realistic to say OU was trying to work from behind with all six and hoping to steal a prospect? It’s not like OU was in the driver’s seat and messed up with any of the recruits listed.

Though OU missed out on the six prospects, has it really hurt its potential class? No, not at all. And now that the Sooners have spent so much time on the sidelines watching as teams made their moves, it’s OU’s turn to take center stage.

It would be different if Texas lured recruits like D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) or cornerback Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa, Okla./East Central) or defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball). Manning attended Texas’ first junior day. Ward and Taylor were invited to last weekend’s junior day but couldn’t make it.

What the Longhorns did was simply take care of business on the top prospects within the state. No commit was surprising and no commit was a backbreaker for the Sooners.

One of the more lasting effects of the weekend might be who wasn’t offered. Defensive end/linebacker Deon Hollins Jr. (Fort Bend, Texas/Marshall) and cornerbacks Maurice Smith (Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles) and Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop) left Austin this weekend without an offer. All three have OU offers and Smith will be on campus for junior day Saturday.

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Offer update: OU offers seven receivers 

February, 24, 2012
The Sooners extended several new offers to 2013 prospects this week. Bob Przybylo breaks down the most recent Oklahoma offers by position:

• Wide receiver isn’t looking like a major position of need for Oklahoma’s 2013 class but that hasn't stopped OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell from offering several top wide outs from across the country. Through Twitter.

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Top Position Battles Heading In To Spring
While a good portion of the country is buried in snow, spring football is underway. Adam Rittenberg looks at some of the top position battles heading in to spring practice.