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State of the Sooners: Oklahoma’s defensive backfield entering the 2014 spring game

by Jason Kersey Modified: April 9, 2014 at 12:15 pm •  Published: April 9, 2014

Oklahoma's Zack Sanchez (15) returns a interception as Alabama's Amari Cooper (9) and Arie Kouandjio (77) chase him down during the NCAA football BCS Sugar Bowl game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (UA) at the Superdome in New Orleans, La., Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.  Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's Zack Sanchez (15) returns a interception as Alabama's Amari Cooper (9) and Arie Kouandjio (77) chase him down during the NCAA football BCS Sugar Bowl game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (UA) at the Superdome in New Orleans, La., Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

NORMAN — Continuing our unit-by-unit look at the 2014 Oklahoma football team, here is a look at the Sooners’ defensive backfield entering Saturday’s spring game.

CORNERBACK
15; Zack Sanchez; So.; 5-11; 176
22; Cortez Johnson; Jr.; 6-2; 201

CORNERBACK
27; Dakota Austin; So.; 5-11; 151
6; Stanvon Taylor; So.; 5-11; 173

Cornerbacks analysis: The battle between Austin, Taylor and Johnson to be the Sooners’ second starting cornerback has been closely watched, and while I initially believed Taylor would win the job, I’m now leaning toward Austin after interviewing him Tuesday. He sounded supremely confident that he was the frontrunner for the job. Austin was the corner who came off the bench for one play when Aaron Colvin had to briefly leave the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. After being the youngest defensive backfield starter last fall, Sanchez is all of a sudden one of the group’s veterans.

FREE SAFETY
4; Hatari Byrd; So.; 6-1; 198
XX; Steven Parker; Fr.; 6-1; 186

STRONG SAFETY
10; Quentin Hayes; Sr.; 6-0; 193
13; Ahmad Thomas; So.; 6-1; 215

NICKELBACK
2; Julian Wilson; Sr.; 6-2; 199
19; Eric Striker; Jr.; 6-0; 219

Safeties analysis: Byrd and Thomas both entered last season with extremely high expectations, but neither played much on defense in 2013. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said the Sooners are using a walk-on as a second-team cornerback, so expect Parker, a former Jenks standout, to immediately enter the rotation next fall. Wilson is sitting out this spring after shoulder surgery, and while he’s out, Striker and Thomas are working at the nickel spot. When we first started hearing about Striker working at nickelback, I wasn’t sure if I believed it, but the more I hear, the more sense it makes. He could end up being valuable at both linebacker and nickel in 2014.

Here’s a full schedule for the “State of the Sooners” series:
Wednesday, 9 a.m..:
Special teams

Wednesday, noon.: Defensive backs
Wednesday, 3 p.m.: Linebackers
Thursday, 9 a.m.: Defensive linemen
Thursday, noon: Offensive linemen
Thursday, 3 p.m.: Tight ends
Friday, 9 a.m.: Wide receivers
Friday, noon: Running backs
Friday, 3 p.m.: Quarterbacks

by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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