NORMAN - Keenan Clayton likes the idea of being known for his coverage skills. Problem is, the kid hits too hard.
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“I’m working hard on my coverage skills,” the Oklahoma strong safety said. “But, I’m going to be known as a guy who’ll come up and hit you. I don’t mind the contact.”
Actually, the redshirt freshman rather enjoys it. So much so, even when he’s hanging out on the couch he’s liable to haul off and smack a buddy if he feels the need.
“He’s country, you know, so I like to mess with him,” said Sooner corner Reggie Smith, Clayton’s roommate. “I’ll just be kidding around, but he gets all serious and tries to beat me up. He’s quite a bit bigger than me, but I can hold my own.”
Opposing receivers and running backs might not be so fortunate. Clayton, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound package of muscle, speed and explosiveness, is set to start for OU in the secondary despite spending all of last season working with the scout team. Even last spring, Clayton ran second team to Jason Carter at strong safety.
Nonetheless, the 19-year-old has wowed the coaching staff with athleticism, which is rare for a guy his size and with a flawless work ethic.
“He’s a kid that has just worked extremely hard,” OU secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright said. “He’s big, strong and physical and can run. In the spring, I didn’t work him with the first group because he was still just a freshman, and I felt like he had to earn his way and earn his keep. And every practice, every scrimmage, he just kept getting better and better. He had a great summer, he came in ready to go. He tested off the charts.”
Clayton, who runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.4-4.5 second range and has a vertical leap of 39 inches, spent his summer wisely. He didn’t merely work out hard, he tapped the brains of Carter, free safety Darien Williams and, of course, his roomie.
“Last year, I played where he’s playing now, so I know what it’s like to learn the position,” Smith said.