NORMAN — Oklahoma's Gabe Lynn understands that it comes with the territory.
Make a mistake on the defensive line and most of the time it goes unnoticed nearly everywhere but the film-study room.
But make a mistake at defensive back and your troubles are laid bare for the world to see.
Lynn, the Sooners' free safety, heard a lot of the criticism of OU's defense over the past two seasons. He also heard criticism of his play by media, former players and by fans and others on Twitter and other sites.
“I remember when it first started, I just kind of blocked it out or tried to block it out,” Lynn said earlier this week at OU's weekly media luncheon. “Because whether you're doing good or doing bad, this is you guys' job and this is what the fans do so, that's part of the game.
“Playing in the secondary, you're probably going to get it most.”
It wasn't always easy.
“As I got older, it's part of it,” Lynn said. “You've just got to go with it.”
Lynn is seeing the other side now.
Through two games, Lynn has been one of the Sooners' best defensive backs.
“I think it's the right position for him,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “He's very comfortable and understands our defense and the nuances and it helps him make plays. He made some huge plays the other night.”
Last week against West Virginia, Lynn had three tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
In the opener against Louisiana-Monroe, Lynn laid out a Warhawks receiver with the game's biggest hit.
“Gabe has turned into an animal,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said. “He's more emotional this year, with his leadership skills.”
After spending much of his career bouncing from spot to spot in the secondary, Lynn appears to have found a home at safety.
He was a backup cornerback in 2010 and 2011, then started at nickelback for much of last year.
“I just like being involved in almost every play,” Lynn said. “At corner or nickel, a lot of times you're worried about your guy, so it's good to get out there and play football with some space and be able to see everything.”
His improvement, and that of the defense, through two games at least, has been fueled in part by the critics, particularly players who were once a part of the Sooners' defense.
“After last year, we can't let that repeat itself,” Lynn said. “We want to get back to where OU was in the early 2000s — known for their defense. In the offseason, we took a lot of heat from past players. It's definitely motivated us to come back and have a good showing.”
But it wasn't just about proving them wrong. It was about figuring out why they were right and making sure there was no repeat.
“Some people in the media or fans, they called us soft,” Lynn said. “Quite frankly, we were soft last year. That's not something we want to be known as is being soft on defense.”
This defense, Lynn said, is different.
“When I say soft, I don't mean like we didn't want to play or something like that,” Lynn said. “We just kind of got lax out there. We were in survival mode instead of attacking, and now we're attacking more.”