NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops revealed his current No. 1 secondary unit last week.
Senior cornerback Aaron Colvin is the group's mainstay; he's joined by cornerback Cortez Johnson, free safety Gabe Lynn, strong safety Quentin Hayes and nickelback Julian Wilson.
Last season, Lynn played nickelback and Wilson regularly entered games as a sixth defensive back.
“You can see the maturation of those guys as players even from last year to this year,” Stoops said. “They're so much more confident and so much better as players. All of those guys really benefitted from playing. I think we've got a lot of experience in the secondary.”
Johnson didn't play last season, sitting out the NCAA-mandated one year after transferring from Arizona, where he started two games and recorded 16 tackles as a true freshman.
Hayes, meanwhile, is coming off a yearlong suspension for violating undisclosed team rules last spring.
Colvin has started 26 career games. He played cornerback as a freshman, started at safety his sophomore season and switched back to corner before his junior year.
He was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season, during which he recorded 52 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions and four pass breakups.
“I'm pretty impressed with everybody,” said Colvin, who strongly considered skipping his senior season and entering the NFL Draft. “I feel like everybody's working hard and everybody's trying to learn. Everybody's stepping up trying to get a spot.”
Colvin has clearly assumed a leadership role in the secondary, with the departures of safeties Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson and cornerback Demontre Hurst. But Colvin has spent extra time working with Wilson, his roommate.
“Julian's a student of the game,” Colvin said. “Julian's always eager to learn. I've been really proud of him studying film. He's got apps on his phone and iPad and on his computer. Julian watches a lot of film.”
Then there's Ahmad Thomas, a freshman strong safety from Miami who enrolled early to participate in spring practices.
Thomas has made big impressions on his new coaches and teammates and could compete for significant playing time as a true freshman in 2013.
“Boy, he's going to be a good one,” senior running back Brennan Clay said of Thomas. “He's still raw-talented, but my man is already 210 and 215, and he likes to lay the wood and he's competitive. I'm excited to see him play.”
Johnson said: “I've never seen a freshman like him. He's going to play a big part in our defense, most likely this year.”