NORMAN — Just before signing day, Sooners safety commitment Hatari Byrd made headlines when he said Oklahoma's coaches told him he'd start as a freshman.
Whether it was a promise or a premonition doesn't much matter six months later. Either way, though, the freshman from Fresno, Calif., is making a serious push for playing time early.
Through just the first three days of practice, Byrd moved around between corner, nickelback and dimeback, learning a variety of responsibilities so he can be used — somewhere — this season.
“His ability to impact the game, I think, to learn the whole system is going to help him,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “He's a guy who can play a lot of different positions. He's the guy we'll probably lean on the heaviest (of the freshman defensive backs).”
With the Sooners losing last year's starters at safety — Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson — there should be plenty of playing time for a player like Byrd, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 198 pounds.
The measurables don't tell the whole story on Byrd, though. One member of Oklahoma's support staff that came across Byrd over the weekend was stunned that he was a freshman.
Defensive tackle Chuka Ndulue applied the same tag on Byrd that former defensive lineman R.J. Washington gave to David King.
“He looks like a beast,” Ndulue said. “For a DB, I don't know if he's 6-3 or, like R.J. said about David, ‘prison swole.' He looks like he's prison swole. That kid is big.
“He reminds me of Q(uinton) Carter but like, fully developed Q. Carter. Is he a freshman? Yeah, he's huge.”
By the time Carter was fully developed, he was a consensus All-American at safety for the Sooners and was a fourth-round pick of the Denver Broncos.