‘We’ll be an improved group’: Sooners defensive backfield improved from a year ago
Brent Venables and his staff committed to ensuring the results of the 2022 season would not be replicated in 2023.
He and the Sooners’ staff were hyperactive in the transfer portal, and they closed their 2023 recruiting class on a significant high note by securing the services of five-star safety Peyton Bowen.
As the Sooners look ahead to spring practice, the time for evaluation and understanding just what type of roster the Sooners will have is here. When speaking with the media last week, Venables made it clear one specific group is primed for a better year.
The defensive backfield.
“So I think we’ll be an improved group,” Venables said about the defensive backfield. “And we lost a bunch of guys. I think we know that … I’m not sure we didn’t lose a lot of production in the secondary, but we, we lost a bunch of bodies.”
Brent Venables believes between the players returning and those that joined the team as midyear enrollees, the Oklahoma Sooners have a better group of defensive backs than they did a year ago.
Kendall Dennis (USF), Bryson Washington (New Mexico) and Joshua Eaton (Texas State) transferred out after the 2022 season. It’s notable none landed with a Power Five squad.
CJ Coldon is the biggest loss the Sooners suffered in the secondary after a strong second half of the season. Justin Broiles hopes to continue his playing career at the NFL level.
Dennis, Washington and Eaton didn’t play enough for their departures to matter much. Their transfers allow Oklahoma to examine what they have in the players brought in over the past two cycles.
Gentry Williams snagged an interception in his first collegiate game. He didn’t see the field much as a true freshman, but the Sooners love his size, athletic ability, and his competitiveness.
Robert Spears-Jennings is another 2022 signee that could make an impact this season. His play speed and physicality were on display last season despite limited snaps.
Kani Walker was brought in before the season from Louisville. Like Williams, Walker has the physical tools the Sooners are looking for in their outside corners.
reggie pearson, a transfer from Texas Tech, is a heavy hitter with plenty of collegiate experience. That physicality and experience will help bring an edge to the Sooners defensive backfield.
Most notably, Peyton Bowen also joins the defensive back room. The most highly coveted secondary recruit for Oklahoma in quite a while, Bowen is expected to be a great one.
Billy Bowman, Woodi Washington, Damond Harmon, Jaden Davis, Justin Harrington and Key Lawrence return after playing meaningful snaps for the Sooners last season. They’ll get another offseason in the Sooners’ defensive system, and should have a better understanding of the expectations in the defense.
The hope is because of the improved talent, there will be better production and depth on the secondary depth chart when it drops just before the season.
It remains to be seen how this will actually play out over the course of the season. However, it’s hard to argue with Venables’ assessment. The players who played the most last year are back and should understand the scheme better, which will lead to better performances on the field.
All that’s left is for those returning players to prove their head coach right.
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