There was never any illusion that replacing Jamell Fleming and everything that he brought to this Oklahoma defense was going to be easy. Paired with Demontre Hurst, the two made one of the top cornerback duos in the Big 12 (if not the country) and gave both their teammates and OU fans alike great confidence in their ability not only to lockdown the man opposite the, but also to come up and defend in the run game.
With Fleming moving on to the NFL, the Sooners are faced with the difficult task of having to replace one of their most talented defensive players and replacing a player at a crucial position in a pass happy league. OU fans all thought they knew who would be the likely replacement once the Sooners signed JUCO CB Kass Everett in this recent 2012 recruiting class. Coming from the JUCO ranks, Everett would be phsyically ready to play at the level, looked good on film, and was enrolling early to take part in spring practice. That all sounds pretty close to perfect right? So what has changed?
What's changed is that according to early reports from spring practices, Everett has struggled to some extent with the transition. Maybe it was naive for OU fans to expect the transition to be a seamless one. JUCO players can be hit or miss prospects and the Sooners have had their own fair share of mixed results with the junior college players they've signed in the past.
So with Everett struggling, a name some OU fans might not be familiar with has reportedly taken advantage and is pushing for that starting spot opposite Hurst. That man is fifth year senior Lamar Harris.
After redshirting in 2008, Harris has played special teams almost exclusively during his time in Norman. It probably won't surprise you to learn that Harris was a pretty highly regarded recruit at the time he signed with the Sooners and has always had the physical gifts that would make you think he could excel at the cornerback position. He's a bigger CB (6'1" around 190 lbs) which we know is something Mike Stoops prefers. He has long arms and a good reach which allows him to reach around receivers to make a play on the ball without having to go through his man and draw a penalty. It really seems like more a case of not what he wasn't doing right, but that he just had some really good players ahead of him.
So now he's getting his shot and according to the whispers coming out of spring practices, he seems to be capitalizing on it. Now while it shouldn't really need to be said, we'll say it anyway. It's way too early to be writing off Everett or assuming that Harris will win the job, but it is a position battle to keep a close eye on throughout the spring and summer. Hurst locking down one side of the field is a given, but if opposing offenses know they can pick on the other side of the field all game long it won't matter how well Hurst plays because they'll never test him if they don't have to.
Competition for a starting job isn't necessarily a bad thing. If Harris and Everett are both pushing each other to improve their game don't both likely benefit (as well as the defense in general) in the long run? Plus, in a worst case scenario type situation the Sooners have an ace up their sleeve with Aaron Colvin who could always be moved back to corner in a pinch. Now I'm sure the coaches would prefer not to be forced to make that move and in a perfect world their best secondary in my opinion involves Colvin staying at safety, but it's comforting to know you have that option if you need it.