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Second Chance! Oklahoma's Defensive Backs Are Looking Toward A Better 2015

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Based off their 2014 stats Oklahoma's secondary may not look like much but a coaching and philosophy change may prove otherwise. The Sooners ranked 117th nationally against the pass last season with opponents averaging 276.2 yards per game through the air. While an argument could be made for a lack of pressure from the defensive front contributing to OU's defensive woes, a large portion of the blame rests solely on the shoulders of the defensive backs.

In an effort to shake up his staff, Bob Stoops relieved his brother, Mike, of the responsibility of coaching the safeties and reassigned him to the outside linebackers. Longtime assistant, and cornerbacks coach Bobby Jack Wright rode off into the sunset of retirement and the Sooners brought in Kerry Cooks from Notre Dame to coach the secondary. Now Cooks is faced with the task of overhauling a secondary that allowed seven pass plays of 20 yards or more against TCU alone.

Junior corner Zack Sanchez is the anchor of Oklahoma's defensive secondary. He was named as a Freshman All-American in 2013 and then was a First-Team All-Conference selection last season. He's recorded 89 total tackles, 8 interceptions, and 21 pass breakups during his first two seasons as a Sooner. Sophomore Jordan Thomas started the final four games of 2014 and made appearances in all thirteen, registering 32 total tackles and 5 pass breakups. Junior Stanvon Taylor will most likely find his way on the field at times as well and JUCO transfer William Johnson could be in the mix, as a backup, also.

Junior strong safety Ahmad Thomas joins Sanchez as Oklahoma's second returning starter in the secondary. Despite recording 75 tackles in 2014 he also struggled at times and if he shows the same tendencies in 2015 he could be supplanted by junior Hatari Byrd.

Steven Parker started three games last season at the nickel back position and had one start at free safety, the position he's slated to take over in 2015. The sophomore from Tulsa, OK ended the season with 31 total tackles, a sack and 6 pass breakups. Freshman Will Sunderland may also see some time at the position.

There's no questioning that Oklahoma's secondary has to improve in 2015. While they may be replacing former starters at free safety and corner they are doing so with guys that have a combined eight starts which means the learning curve may not be as big as expected.