After the lackadaisical performance last year , the Oklahoma Sooners are hoping to reboot the defense starting with the secondary. Currently, the most glaring issue staring down Mike Stoops is replacing Steven Parker and Will Johnson. There’s no denying the raw talent on the roster as the coaching staff recently signed seven 4-star or 5-star recruits at the defensive back position. But, the candidates remain largely inexperienced as nine of the thirteen scholarship defensive backs are freshman or sophomores. There’s only one question to ask: without a depth chart to peek at, who earns the start on September 1?
Predicting the Starting Safeties
The most experience of the group, senior Kahlil Haughton, could easily make an immediate impact this season. Earning playing time in 35 games throughout the duration of his career, the safety made four starts in 2017.
But, I’ll forgo the experience for the ceiling of redshirt sophomore, Jordan Parker. As a true freshman, Parker started eight games while appearing in ten. Yet an injury sidelined the rising star for the entirety of 2017. Regardless, this kid is easily the best tackler in the secondary setting him apart from the rest of the competition. Assuming Parker continued to progress despite the setback, he’s the prime candidate for one of the strong safety spot.
Secondly, I could easily make a case for Brendan Radley-Hiles, a 5-star recruit and the No. 17 overall recruit in the 2018 class. A versatile playmaker on the defensive side of the ball, the true freshman has yet to play a collegiate game. That didn’t stop the conference from crowning Radley-Hiles as the Big 12’s newcomer of the year. The kid is certainly turning heads and will undoubtedly receive playing time if the news coming out of camp is at all true. But, my nod goes to Robert Barnes at this point in time.
Barnes nearly missed his entire senior season of high school football with a leg injury. The issue persisted as a collegiate athlete. However, Barnes managed to play in ten games as a true freshman last season. Possessing the physicality and mental fortitude to excel at this level, Barnes is primed for a breakout year. Now, with over 12 months in this system, Barnes actions and reactions should come without thinking too much. The growing pains have been removed and this sophomore should rise to the occasion with each and every opportunity.