Oklahoma’s defensive staff has been completely overhauled under Brent Venables. Unlike the offensive side of the ball, where three assistant coaches were retained, the defense is completely under new management. With the secondary potentially having more question marks than any other position group on the team, Brandon Hall (Safeties) and Jay Valai (Cornerbacks and Nicklebacks) are going to be put in the spotlight to put together a crew that can improve on Oklahoma’s 261.8 yards per game surrendered through the air which was the second worst average in the Big 12.
|Delarrin Turner-Yell||Strong Safety||191/4|
|Pat Fields||Free Safety||202/3|
New faces along the defensive side of the ball isn’t just relegated to the coaching staff though. Venables, and new defensive coordinator Tedd Roof, pulled some secondary depth and experience out of the transfer portal as well. Trey Morrison made 41 starts at C.J. Coldon was a four-year starter at Wyoming. They’ll mix in with rising stars, like Billy Bowman and Key Lawrence, and seasoned veterans like, Woodi Washington and Justin Broiles, to changed not only the culture, but the production of the defense this fall.
Projected Secondary Depth Chart
|Woodi Washington (R-Jr.)||Free Safety||Strong Safety||D.J. Graham (Jr.)|
|Jaden Davis (Sr.)||Billy Bowman (So.)||Key Lawrence (Jr.)||C.J. Coldon (R-Jr.)|
|Justin Broiles (R-Sr.)||Jordan Muker (So.)||Nickle|
|Trey Morrison (Sr.)|
|Jayden Rowe (Fr.)|
Despite only starting four games, and playing two different positions, in 2021, Key Lawrence still managed to earn All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection. He did play in all 13 of Oklahoma’s game but never really a place on the defense to hang his hat. Rotating between cornerback and strong safety, he developed a knack for making big hits and being a sure tackler. Likely to land as the replacement for Delarrin Turner-Yell at strong safety, the opportunity to play the entire season at one position should be incredibly beneficial. Last season he recorded 47 total tackles and three forced fumbles without having a full-time home. Imagine what he could do in 2022 with a solid place on the defense and firm understanding of what his role is in the system.
Oklahoma gave up the third most passing touchdowns in the Big 12 last season. With opponents hitting pay dirt 26 times through the air in 2021, only Kansas (27) and Texas Tech (34) were worse. Those aren’t the kind of numbers that will lead you to a conference title and they are a big reason why the Sooners were home watching Baylor and Oklahoma State battle it out in Arlington for the Big 12 championship on December 4th.
2021 Big 12 Defenses Against The Pass
Sure, some of the blame can be placed on defensive coaches and schemes but some of it rest squarely on the shoulders of the guys on the field. With both safeties gone from 2021 changes were coming anyway. Now a new staff is bringing a new attitude and a new system that is not only proven but one of the best in the nation when run properly. I believe that defense is Oklahoma’s key to returning to Big 12 dominance in 2022 and the play of the secondary will either make that a reality or an impossibility.
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