South Garland (Texas) High's
Then Ibiloye paused. Sometimes, he said, all the studying, the coaching and the reasoning melt away. Sometimes, something inside screams:
"Sometimes, you take guesses," Ibiloye said. "It's instinct."
Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers might get most of the attention, but lately college coaches are coveting safeties, whose instincts turn them into football-seeking missiles, just as much. At every level of football, the position has experienced a renaissance as coaches have realized how versatile their defense can be with a true ballhawk in the secondary. While the middle linebacker remains the playcaller for most defenses, the free safety has become the ultimate slash player -- as in cover/tackle/run support/blitz/punish.
The best free safeties do all five things well, and defensive coordinators love them for it. Got a shaky front seven? Use your ballhawk as a one-high safety and put your strong safety in the box. Nothing's getting past your man in the back. Have a suspect corner? Roll your ballhawk to his side and watch him dart in to pick off a pass from a quarterback who never saw him coming. Want to really mess with the quarterback's head? Blitz your ballhawk.
Ballhawk is an apt term, too. In nature, hawks use superior vision, an excellent vantage point and breathtaking closing speed to hunt their prey. Those essentially are the same tools a free safety needs to wreak havoc on an offense.
Philadelphia Eagles safety
The impact those players made in the NFL and in college has taught college coaches that they need at least one ballhawk in the secondary at all times. They'd prefer to stockpile them and play them together. If the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Ibiloye can develop quickly, Oklahoma coaches may play him next year in nickel situations alongside senior
At UCLA, the new Bruins staff hopes to sign local product
In Gainesville, Florida coaches are hoping either
"That's like the quarterback of the defense," Meyer said a few days after a particularly porous day against Ole Miss. "If you miss a play there, the opponent's band's playing."
Ibiloye, the Oklahoma recruit, understands the pressure on him to predict plays accurately. That's one reason why he says a prayer before every play. Still, that prayer isn't always answered. He recalled a play last season when he bit on a play fake. He'll never forget how he felt watching the pass sail over his head as he said another prayer: Please let the cornerback bail me out.
"It's like the whole world stops," Ibiloye said.
But Ibiloye rarely guesses wrong, South Garland coach
"Oklahoma is going to get itself a jewel," Moss said.
Or a hawk.