SI Sooners Spring Game Wrapup

SI Sooners Spring Game Wrapup

Oklahoma Spring Review: A First Look at Billy Bowman From the Spring Game

With no Jeremiah Criddell, Billy Bowman offered a peek into the future of the nickel back at OU.
Author:
Publish date:

It’s not often a coach has to win the recruiting battle with a player twice.

But that’s exactly what Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch had to do with Billy Bowman.

Flipping the Denton, TX, product from Texas, Grinch then had to keep him on the defensive side of the ball.

Grinch appears to have won that battle too, for now, as Bowman appears to be able to make an immediate impact at nickel back for the OU defense.

Playing without potential starter Jeremiah Criddell in the Red/White Game, Bowman got the opportunity to show off his abilities that had so many high on him when he made the decision to graduate high school early and join the program as an early enrollee.

First seeing action on the second drive of the game, starting alongside the projected defensive starters, Bowman flashed why he’s viewed as the ideal fit for Grinch’s nickel back.

In the first two plays, Bowman showed how his instincts can help in both the pass game and the run game. Matched up against Brian Darby, Bowman was physical at the line of scrimmage, running step-for-step with the sophomore wide receiver. Then on the second play, he recognized quarterback Caleb Williams’ decision to tuck the ball, and instead of getting sucked in and potentially juked in the backfield, Bowman held his contain on the edge and forced the young quarterback straight back into the heart of the defensive line for little to no gain.

The ability to play both facets of the game out of the nickel back position can help truly unlock the potential of Grinch’s defense.

Billy Bowman wowed coaches across the country in high school, earning the No. 2-ranked nickel back spot in the SI99

Billy Bowman wowed coaches across the country in high school, earning the No. 2-ranked nickel back spot in the SI99

A season ago, Brendan Radley-Hiles was actually OK in the run game at times, but his frame saw him struggle to help set the edge against most teams not named Texas.

Though only listed an inch taller than Radley-Hiles, Bowman’s frame is already filled out much more, and he’s yet to truly spend some time in Bennie Wylie’s conditioning program.

As Bowman’s first drive trudged on, Lincoln Riley moved Marvin Mims into the slot, representing a much bigger challenge for Bowman.

To close out his first action on the field, Bowman hand-fought with Mims off the line, continuing to stick to last year’s leading receiver down the field.

Continuing to battle, Mims was able to get the better of Bowman on two occasions, getting a step of separation off the line, but the true freshman was able to close the window back down, resulting in Mims failing to even be targeted while Bowman was in coverage.

On his last drive of the first half, Bowman was able to seal off a route by Jeremiah Hall, using his body to force the Oklahoma H-back to the sideline. His coverage forced Rattler to wave the white flag and throw the ball away.

Later in the second half, Bowman again used his body position to knock Mims off his route, easily breaking up a back-shoulder throw on the goal line for his lone pass breakup of the day.

Known in high school for his abilities with the ball in the open field, Bowman was tasked by Riley with returning the opening kickoff of the second half as well. Bouncing the play outside, Bowman easily brought the ball out to the 33-yard line before being run out of bounds. Between Mims and Bowman, the Sooners should be in good shape in the return game this season.

Though Criddell has gotten plenty of praise this spring, Bowman showed with both his coverage ability and his willingness to flock to the football that he can be a productive member fo the nickel back rotation. With Bowman getting 20 defensive snaps in the spring game, Grinch and Roy Manning showed they're ready to throw Bowman out on the field to make plays.

One facet of Bowman’s game not put the test during the Red/White Game was how he will match up with bigger-bodied wide receivers and tight ends. Covering Darby, Hall and Mims, he had to deal with quick and intelligent players, but nobody that would tower over him.

How he fares against those players could define his time in the nickel position, as it was a situation Radley-Hiles struggled with, much to the chagrin of Oklahoma fans.

For now though, there is plenty of promise with OU’s latest defensive acquisition. 

It’s not often a coach has to win the recruiting battle with a player twice.

But that’s exactly what Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch had to do with Billy Bowman.

Flipping the Denton, TX, product from Texas, Grinch then had to keep him on the defensive side of the ball.

Member Exclusive

Get Exclusive Access to All Sooners Content