NORMAN — Oklahoma must replace both of its starting safeties next season, and OU commitment Hatari Byrd told The Oklahoman one of the spots already belongs to him.
Byrd, a four-star prospect from Central High in Fresno, Calif., said Sooner coaches have told him that he's going to start as a true freshman.
“I'm going to come in and work really hard — that's the type of player I am — but they told me I'm going to be the starter,” Byrd said in a telephone interview.
“They told me it's my spot.”
Byrd didn't specify whether he'd be a strong or free safety in Norman, but did say he's more comfortable playing pass defense.
“I can come up and stop the run, but I'm more of a cover guy,” Byrd said.
Byrd is one of two safeties in the Sooners' recruiting class of 2013, along with three-star Miami prospect Ahmad Thomas, who graduated early and is already enrolled in classes at OU.
The Sooners' two safeties from last season — Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson — are gone. Harris' eligibility expired, and Jefferson opted to forgo his senior season and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Byrd and Thomas could compete for playing time with senior Gabe Lynn, who started at nickelback last season, junior Julian Wilson, who played a dimeback role in 2012, and sophomores Quentin Hayes and Cortez Johnson, neither of whom played at all last season.
Hayes was suspended, and Johnson sat out the NCAA-mandated one year after transferring from Arizona.
Byrd verbally committed to Oklahoma last summer, but his pledge is nonbinding. Prospects can begin signing national letters of intent next Wednesday.