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Oklahoma's Billy Bowman Feeling Confident Again at Safety

The Sooner sophomore will only be tasked with mastering one position this year, something Bowman embraced this offseason.

Billy Bowman’s first season at Oklahoma was eventful, to say the least.

The consensus 4-star recruit immediately made waves last year, earning seven starts in his true freshman season for the Sooners.

Primarily deployed as a nickel back early in the year, Bowman looked to be on track to utilize his exceptional athleticism to put together an impressive opening season.

But injuries across Oklahoma’s secondary changed the course of Bowman’s year.

The Denton, TX, product was pulled in multiple directions, getting tossed in at corner on short notice, and his level of play dipped along with the rest of the defensive backs.

Moving a young player around to multiple positions runs a high risk, and Bowman himself admitted that he took a slight mental hit as a result of the volatility.

The coaching changes in the offseason helped immediately reverse course, however, as the young defensive back rebounded this spring.

“Definitely felt like last season I lost some confidence,” Bowman said during OU media day on Tuesday. “But I feel like this year (I’ve) been able to gain that confidence back with these coaches coming in. And during spring ball I felt like I definitely gained my confidence back and I’m ready to go.”

Brent Venables had a simple plan to get Bowman back on track — allow Bowman to thrive at just one position.

Now, the 5-foot-10 defensive back is a member of Brandon Hall’s safeties room, a spot where Bowman feels he’ll be able to thrive in 2022.

“I feel like that’s exactly what suits me, Bowman said. “Being able to cover green. I’m a faster, rangy guy. I might not be the longest guy, but I can definitely get from point A to point B very fast. So I feel like being on top of the defense is where I need to be.”

Billy Bowman

Billy Bowman burst onto the scene for Oklahoma last year before getting moved around the OU secondary due to injuries.  

Despite the ups and the downs, Bowman’s freshman year was still a success.

He logged a pair of pass breakups last year to go with his 22 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and forced fumble.

And while Bowman himself said he had a small dip in confidence, Hall said he’s seen no signs of Bowman second guessing himself since he arrived on campus with the new staff this past winter.

“Since the day that I’ve stepped on campus, he’s done nothing but really good things,” Hall said. “He’s a really good student. He’s a leader in the weight room. He’s always competitive trying to be the best that he can be at anything he does. Like I said, he’s a great person.”

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With Delarrin Turner-Yell and Pat Fields gone, the Sooners will need two guys to step up and take the vacated snaps on the back end.

Bowman and Key Lawrence have been tabbed for the role, as both guys are looking to thrive at one spot this year. Like Bowman, Lawrence played multiple positions last year  

Hall thinks the moves can get the best out of both Bowman and Lawrence, as settling in to just one spot on the back end of the defense will allow both guys to play more instinctively and react to the game faster instead of having to think their way through every situation.

“You start to brainwash yourself into playing a certain part of the field,” Hall said. “Understanding the different body cues from the other players that you’re playing with and the communication piece and how routes and run fits all kind of come together. … There’s a comfort level that comes with that and I think that’s anybody.

“… I think that’s the main thing is just a comfort level of seeing the same things over and over and hearing the same things over and over and then pretty soon it just becomes second nature, muscle memory.”

Bowman has embraced the change fully. He said his goal was to start small in the spring, but as the summer has pressed on he’s learned more and more about how he’ll be deployed in 2022.

“Throughout spring ball I focused strictly on one position,” he said. “But now as we get time away from football in strength and conditioning, stuff like that, I’ve kind of put my focus on knowing more of the defense. So it’s been good for me.

“… I feel like it allows me to focus on the little things. Once you narrow your focus down to one thing, you can focus on all the little things. Becoming great at one thing and then focus on those other things.”

If he can digest all the new information thrown at him, Bowman’s athleticism will bring an element that has been missing from the back end of Oklahoma’s defense for quite some time.

Throughout his high school career, Bowman showed the ability to flip a game on one play. The previous coaching staff obviously believed in those traits as well, allowing him to take reps as a kick returner even though special teams were treated as an afterthought in games last year.

Hall is a huge believer in the sophomore as well. But he’ll have to continue his work throughout fall camp to be ready to make a difference at safety from the jump in 2022.

“He’s confident and he’s got a great desire,” Hall said. “Everybody knows he’s athletic, he’s explosive. He has all the traits to be a great football player and he shows up every day hungry and ready to work.

“And I expect Billy to do great things at Oklahoma. I really do. I think he’s got a great temperament. He’s very confident and very quiet at the same time. He’s really gonna be a good football player. He loves the game.”

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