In the weeks leading up to the Cotton Bowl, SoonerNation will take a look back at how the Sooners performed position-by-position and give each group a grade based on that performance. Today, we examine the safety position.
Highlights: Tony Jefferson delivered one of the best seasons by an OU safety in the Bob Stoops era, while Javon Harris bounced back from an inconsistent 2011 season with a strong senior campaign. Jefferson led the Sooners with 113 tackles and two interceptions on his way to all-Big 12 honors. Harris had a team-high five interceptions, and was second with 77 tackles. The heart and soul of the Mike Stoops defense is the safeties, and Jefferson and Harris were solid to stout the majority of the season.
Lowlights: The safeties were awesome the first half of the season, but struggled in November – along with the rest of the defense. Harris was much better about not getting beat than he was last season, but was late helping Demontre Hurst on a critical throw down the middle in the loss to Notre Dame. The same thing happened against TCU, resulting in an 80-yard touchdown for wideout Brandon Carter. Jefferson, a sure-handed tackler all season, struggled to wrap up anyone in Bedlam.
Surprises: Mike Stoops was able to commit to using five and six defensive backs because of how Gabe Lynn and Julian Wilson emerged in the nickel and dime backs. Lynn, who was awful at corner last season, was much more effective in the nickel playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Wilson had a very effective season as well covering opposing team’s slot receivers.
Grade: A- Safety was one of the strengths of the defense all season and a major reason why the Sooners were tough to throw against, even in the pass-happy Big 12. Harris was a playmaker, Jefferson was an enforcer and Lynn and Wilson were solid in coverage.