Welcome back to another edition of our 2020 Countdown to Kickoff series! With a little over one week left remaining for the month of July, we are now just 44 days away from the return of Oklahoma Sooners Football! Speaking of which, a highly experienced junior is also making his return to the OU defense this fall — I’m talking about DB Brendan Radley-Hiles, aka ‘Bookie’.
4⃣4⃣ Days Until ⭕️ .— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) July 23, 2020
Brendan Radley-Hiles saves the day with a spectacular interception last season against TCU.
"It's a little late and it allows Radley-Hiles to make the play of his career as a Sooner."#OUDNA | #BoomerSooner pic.twitter.com/JGZgZyGtJ9
Radley-Hiles’ late-game INT in the fourth quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs last season represents arguably his highest of highs after two years in Norman. Coming from the elite ranks of IMG Academy, this Inglewood, California native signed with Oklahoma in 2019 as a five-star prospect. He’s shown flashes of that lofty rating throughout his career thus far, yet with so much hype and potential surrounding his recruitment, fans are expecting more from Bookie, and quite frankly, he expects more from himself.
With all of that said, it’s important to keep in mind that Bookie was essentially playing for his third collegiate defensive coordinator as a sophomore in 2019. Mike Stoops was fired mid-way through his true freshman season, opening the door for Ruffin McNeill to hold down the fort until Alex Grinch could be hired. It’s been a whirlwind of sorts for everybody on that side of the ball, but it’s not been without improvement.
Speaking of Grinch, something he’s emphasized on defense is creating turnovers. While that didn’t exactly pan out as frequently as the Sooners wanted it to last fall, whenever takeaways did happen, Radley-Hiles played a role in it more often than not. Check out this beautifully timed pick-six he snagged in the third quarter versus South Dakota.
Including the two interceptions shown in the above highlights, Bookie logged a total of three takeaways on the season. The other being a fumble recovery that also came against the Coyotes. He even forced a fumble from Oklahoma State Cowboys star RB Chuba Hubbard in Bedlam.
For most of 2019, Radley-Hiles lined up as OU’s nickel, though there’s a sizable contingent of observers that believe his talent might be best suited at cornerback. Listed at a (probably) generous 5’9, Bookie doesn’t exactly fit the prototypical mold that Alex Grinch is looking for in his secondary, but with two seasons and 25 career starts under his belt, his experience is invaluable. Also, just because he’s not the biggest guy on the field doesn’t mean he’s incapable of lowering the boom. As a true freshman, he nearly de-cleated K-State tight end Blaise Gammon, and effectively broke up a would-be completion for a first down.
Despite showing marked improvement during his sophomore season, Bookie ended 2019 on a bit of a sour note after a blatant targeting penalty led to his ejection from the Peach Bowl CFP semifinal. His disqualification was the insult added to injury as Oklahoma went on to lose in lopsided fashion to the LSU Tigers.
In two seasons as a Sooner, Brendan Radley-Hiles has compiled 85 total tackles, including five tackles-for-loss, eight pass breakups, two INTs and one fumble recovery. Going forward, Bookie has the potential to play a key role in the growth and development of Oklahoma’s defense under Alex Grinch, but the starting role at nickel is certainly up for grabs in 2020.
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