Heading into the spring, the Oklahoma secondary is a huge question mark. The 2014 unit gave up 276 yards per game, 8th worst in all of college football. The coaching staff restocked the cupboards in the defensive backfield this winter. Three corners and three safeties signed with the Sooners. With Quentin Hayes and Julian Wilson gone, some of these new guys will contribute. With a new cornerbacks coach, how much is still up in the air.
THE SHUTDOWN CORNER - ZACK SANCHEZ
I use "shutdown corner" lightly, but with this unit, he's the closest thing to one we've got. I'm going to give him a partial pass for tackling issues in 2014 because I believe he never fully recovered from a broken hand sustained early in the season. There's no excuses this year.
THE DARK HORSE - JORDAN THOMAS
With Julian Wilson injured, Thomas did a pretty good job in 2014. He's far from a lock to earn the other starting corner spot, but he's definitely the favorite. If he can fight off guys like Stanvon Taylor, Dakota Austin, and Marcus Green, I'm really liking the chances that the 6'1 corner can produce.
THE ROOKIE - PJ MBANASOR
The cream of the corner crop for OU, Mbanasor has all the tools to help this year. I really think that, of all the freshmen corners, this guy can really contribute this year. At 6'1, he can contest the deep balls, and he can tackle. Mbanasor doesn't have great ball skills, but his length is really impressive.
The Sooners will only have three safeties participate in spring practice. Due to this lack of actual bodies, I'm just going to do a rundown of the two starters, then talk about the three freshmen.
Steven Parker - The likely starter is only a true sophomore, but has quite a bit of game experience. He's got good length, and ball skills. Coverage is an issue I'd like to see resolved this spring. Too many busted coverages in 2014.
Ahmad Thomas - Thomas is a first time starter. I like his athleticism, and the rest is a question mark to me. He really needs to have a good spring, if he wants to hold off some of the freshmen coming in.
Freshmen - None of the freshmen are enrolled for this semester and that kind of sucks. It's really tough to come in during the summer, pick up the playbook, and contribute week one. This is why some schools (Baylor) schedule a bunch of cupcakes for their first three or four games. Oklahoma doesn't have that luxury. They have to travel to Knoxville week 2, and go up against a much improved Tennessee team.
The two safeties expected to contribute this year are Will Sunderland and Prentice McKinney. I expect them to not really play many meaningful downs until conference play. Against the likes of Baylor and TCU, the Sooners will need as many able bodied defensive backs as possible.
EXPECTED DEPTH CHART
CB1 - Zack Sanchez / Dakota Austin / Marcus Green
CB2 - Jordan Thomas / William Johnson / Antoine Stephens
CB3 - PJ Mbanasor / Stanvon Taylor / Tito Windham
SS - Steven Parker / Will Sunderland / Prentice McKinney
FS - Ahmad Thomas / Hatari Byrd / Kahlil Haughton