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August 20, 2012
Notebook: Nickel emerges, WRs come together
So many people want to know what Mike Stoops will change with Oklahoma’s defense in 2012. The biggest change Sooner fans will see is a bigger presence at the nickel back position.
After moving Tony Jefferson to free safety, Stoops set out to put another defensive back on the field to replace him. As fall camp ends, it appears Julian Wilson and Gabe Lynn are the players battling for that spot.
“Julian Wilson has really played well. He and Gabe (Lynn) have both had their times when they shined,” said Stoops. “I feel that's the strongest position - that and our linebacker position when you look at our depth of quality players.
“Those two guys can play a lot and it gives us flexibility with Gabe to play some strong safety and maneuver. It gives us an extra safety we feel can play at high level. Those guys have been a positive.”
Wilson is a new name for Sooner fans, although he’s no surprise to his teammates.
“He’s been patient. He’s waited for his opportunity and he’s stepped in this fall and really impressed the coaches. There it is,” said senior Demontre Hurst. “For him to come along, be patient and wait his turn, he’s done a good job and he’s really stepping up. I can trust him and respect him to go out there and make big plays for us.”
“People really haven’t seen Julian but he’s been doing a good job for us,” added Tony Jefferson. “He knows his role and he plays it well.”
Jefferson is also a big fan of having the nickel back position as a bigger part of the defense this season.
“That’s a pretty good strong point for us,” he said. “We’re going to be utilizing the nickel like it should be used covering those slots. I know we’ve got the right guys in the right place.”
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Throughout fall camp, Oklahoma’s secondary has been battling Landry Jones’ rebuilt receiving corps. So we went to the defensive backs to get their take on how this unit stacks up.
“I’m very comfortable with our receiving corps right now,” said Tony Jefferson. “Justin Brown came in and we’ve got Kenny (Stills) and Trey Metoyer can catch anything. I’m really excited about our receiving corps.”
“Discipline,” he said. “His routes are disciplined. He knows how to get open. He’s tall, lanky, and he can go get the ball. He has a lot of strong points in his game.”
As for the freshmen?
“Durron (Neal) and Sterling (Shepard) are about the same to me,” Jefferson offered. “ I like them and we’ll probably use them a lot.”
Jefferson only had so much praise for those guys on the other side of the ball though.
“They’ve creased us sometimes on runs, but we’ve been dominating (the receivers) in this camp, especially one-on-ones too,” Jefferson said with a grin. “They’ve got us a few times, but they’re the ones at the end of the day doing pushups.”
When it’s all said and done, the only opinion that really matters concerning the growth of the wide receiver position is the one from head coach Bob Stoops.
Stoops says the receivers have come together as well as he could have hoped this fall.
“Justin Brown has really added a ton,” he said. “Kenny and Trey have been consistently really solid. And then the young guys are coming on. Lacoltan Bester is doing well. Sterling Shepard is really sticking out. Durron and Derrick Woods are doing a nice job. It's coming together. We'll see, but they've been really solid.”
“Being a leader you want to be captain and you put yourself in that seat to feel that you are whether you’re voted that way or not,” said Hurst. “For me to be a captain would be an honor, a blessing and it’s something I can establish being a real captain and a real leader. For the guys to even vote for me as a captain would be a big thing for me and show I’m capable of doing the right things. Hopefully I can be captain and I can represent this team.”