Cornerback depth has been outlined by some as a potential roadblock in the Sooners’ national title dreams in 2021.
David Kenyon of Bleacher Report highlighted the group as OU’s “biggest flaw” entering the next college football season.
While the secondary has improved both years under Alex Grinch, Kenyon wrote, Oklahoma could be losing too much production to overcome in just one offseason.
“(Oklahoma’s pass defense) surged from 60th in yards allowed per pass to 21st and — perhaps more notably — improved from allowing 27 touchdowns with seven interceptions to 12 scores and 16 picks,” Kenyon wrote. “Oklahoma has a few notable departures with Tre Brown and Tre Norwood. They combined for eight of the Sooners' 16 interceptions last season.”
By no means did Kenyon write off the group replacing Norwood and Brown, but the development that players like Brown and Parnell Motley made under Grinch and secondary coach Roy Manning cannot be ignored.
Motley went from a member of the worst pass defense in school history to a First Team All-Big 12 selection in 2019, just one season under the new defensive regime. Many felt he should have been drafted, and Motley has bounced around a couple of NFL franchises.
Brown himself is looking to earn his way into the draft after rave reviews at the Senior Bowl and earning Second Team All-Big 12 honors in 2020.
Sooner fans don’t even have to operate in the hypothetical to be optimistic about how the position group could fare next season.
Woodi Washington consistently impressed in his sophomore season, making a case as the most consistent member of the cornerback room by the end of the season. Jaden Davis has two years of starting experience under his belt too, and freshman D.J. Graham came on strong to end the 2020 campaign, flashing the potential as perhaps the best corner in Norman.
The 2021 secondary (excluding now-departed Norwood), were good enough to embarrass the nation’s No. 1-ranked passing offense in Kyle Trask’s Florida Gators, intercepting the Heisman Trophy finalist three times on the first three possessions of the Cotton Bowl.
All of that production comes before Tennessee transfer Keyshawn Lawrence or highly touted class of 2020 additions Joshua Eaton and Justin Harrington get a chance to make their mark for the Sooners.
“If the secondary holds up, Oklahoma is a legitimate national championship threat,” Kenyon wrote.
There may be plenty of reason for optimism on that front.