Without question, the strength of the Sooners defense will be in the defensive secondary and that's no small statement considering they lose Jamell Fleming. However three starters return, they'll have a decent amount of experience behind the starters, and are getting some JUCO help as well. They'll legitimately have not one, but two Thorpe Award candidates which doesn't exactly happen on the same team with any kind of regularity.
And the secondary is going to have to be good if our previews of the front seven are any indication of the concerns regarding how this OU defense is going to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. Of course, at this time last year we were wondering the exact same thing then we got a solid season from Ronnell Lewis and a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year season from Frank Alexander. So maybe lightning strikes twice again this year, but either way OU fans can feel very confident in their secondary heading into 2012.
Hurst is the first of the Thorpe Award candidates mentioned in the open though given how little credit he gets for locking down his side of the field every Saturday, I'd venture to bet the people who vote on these awards won't recognize him either. And they're morons if they don't. The guy has been nothing less than stellar since he took over the starting job as a sophomore.
As I'm sure you have surmised, Jefferson would be the second Thorpe Award candidate and obviously putting him where we have him is based on the premise that he moves back to that traditional safety spot full time. He didn't seem to skip a beat when moved there late in the season so we're betting the coaches make it a full time gig in 2012.
I'm not gonna lie to you, Colvin is one of my favorite players on this football team. I absolutely love everything about his game and even more so because coming out of h.s. no recruiting service held him with any regard and he's been a stud for OU from day one. Now my personal preference would be to see him shift back to corner, where he played as a true freshman, because with him and Hurst at corner they'd be almost impossible to throw on. But I don't really think it's in the cards since the coaches signed the JUCO corner we're about to discuss. You don't go sign guys like that with the expectation of them coming in and not playing. So I think Colvin will stay at safety, but that won't make him any less effective as we saw all season in 2011.
Everett comes to Norman from a JUCO out in California and has the look of an immediate impact player. His film gives the impression that he's definitely not afraid to come up and make tackles in run support, which could make him the perfect replacement for Fleming who did much the same thing. OU has had some hit and miss luck with JUCO signees in the past, but as I said before schools don't typically sign JUCO guys unless they expect them to come in and compete for playing time. So the expectation is certainly that Everett is given every shot to win that starting job and being on campus already only increases his chances.
Wilson is a guy we've only see to this point on special teams. He's an explosive athlete, but we just don't know anything about his play at corner yet.
Powell was originally recruited as a wide receiver, then switched to cornerback, and during bowl practices this past season switched back to wide out because of our well known depth issues at the time. He is a notorious trash talker and all those times you saw OU players squawking at the opposing team as they came on the field, Powell was one of the lead guys every single time. Like Wilson though he's another guy who we just don't know a lot about at the CB position.
Harris was someone the coaches talked about getting on the field this year prior to the season, and even during it, but it never seemed to materialize for him. Granted with Fleming and Hurst ahead of him, the fact that OU never subs their corners out, and the fact the coaches never play more than two CBs at a time (ever) there weren't really a lot of opportunities for him. He'll be a senior next year, so I'd expect him to get on the field at some point next year (Stoops loves his seniors).
Okotcha redshirted in 2011 and could potentially be the next lock down corner for the Sooners. He's listed at 168 pounds right now on the official roster so he'll definitely need to spend this offseason putting on some good weight to hold up for a 12-13 game season.
Harris certainly isn't a name unfamiliar to Oklahoma fans. He definitely had his issues at times in 2011, but in my opinion he kind of got a bad wrap. When he was bad he was glaringly bad, but for the better part of the season he more than held his own as far as I'm concerned. He's excellent in run support and for that reason I fully expect the coaches to work him on this defense next year.
Lynn was another guy that had some really bad moments and based on that I'm guessing they shift him over to safety. It's a position I thought he should have been at all along, but this possible move is admittedly a gut feel by me. I do think he could excel there as he showed, on more than one occasion, the ability to come up and deliver the monster hit. Maybe he improves with another offseason, but he struggled to cover one-on-one in space and because of that I think he could be a bigger contributor at safety in 2012.
If Lynn stays at corner, then Hayes is about the only other option the Sooners would have at safety behind the starters and Harris. Much like Okotcha, Hayes is undersized (listed at 181 lbs.) especially for a safety.