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Oklahoma Sooners Football: On defense, few jobs are safe

Chatter from the recruiting trail puts OU’s defensive players on notice – if they weren’t already.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 06 Indiana at Ohio State Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Oklahoma Sooners football team celebrated the Fourth of July this year by securing a high-profile commitment from blue-chip safety Bryson Washington, but the recruiting win actually seemed to draw even more attention to OU’s recruiting pitch.

According to another prep defensive back, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch isn’t mincing words about OU’s roster out on the trail. Per Joshua Eaton, a four-star cornerback from Aldine, Texas, in an interview with Rivals’ Sam Spiegelman (you can also hear the quote on Sooner Scoop’s recent podcast episode):

(Grinch) told me what it is, straight up. Oklahoma is hurting at defensive back. They’re hurting on defense. Basically, he told me that if there was not one person from the defense that could go to the NFL right now. That’s different. That’s keeping it real with what’s going on. Most coaches trying to feed you different stories, but he’s telling me the real, he’s showing me the real and I’m hearing the real. I heard it.

Keeping it that real may help lure some prospective players to your program, but what about the players who are already there? Grinch still has to coach them, after all, and that doesn’t sound like a vote of confidence.

If you were paying attention to Grinch’s blunt evaluations during spring camp, you know Eaton is almost certainly being honest about what he was told. Of course, if you were paying attention to the play of OU’s defense in recent years, you also know it’s correct.

To be sure, one or two Sooners on D may hear their names called in April, but that’s not really the point. The overriding message is that no returnees have done enough in their careers to prove OU can’t live without them. Grinch presumably made that clear to them this spring. If not, his comments to the media months ago should have done the trick.

More importantly, none of this really needs to be said. If any players didn’t figure that out after the 2018 collapse, they should get a grip.

OU experienced a blood-letting already in the offseason, with defenders such as Tyreece Lott, Ron Tatum and K’Jakyre Daley entering the transfer portal. It wouldn’t be surprising if more departures are coming in the near future.

Don’t expect Grinch and the rest of the coaching staff to just toss the incumbents overboard in 2019. The Sooners have plenty of talented defenders on the roster with ample room to improve. Frankly, Grinch and head coach Lincoln Riley probably want the returnees looking over their shoulders from here on out for that very reason. A tenuous hold on their spots on the depth chart should motivate them to get better.

On the flip side, Grinch presumably gets that the underperformance of OU’s defenses in recent years won’t earn him a pass this year. Even if OU lacks an ideal fit at every defensive position, how Grinch feels about OU’s personnel won’t matter when they suit up in the fall.

The people who pack Owen Field on Saturdays won’t tolerate an “I need my guys in the program” rap if the defense continues to stumble – nor should they. Grinch has more than enough quality players on hand.