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Oklahoma's Justin Harrington Bringing Versatility to the Secondary

The former junior college transfer drew the praises of OU head coach Brent Venables on Wednesday.

Early in preseason camp, Justin Harrington’s versatility has been on full display.

After entering the transfer portal last season and then getting a second chance with the team this spring, Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables told Harrington he’d have to earn his way back onto the field.

Through spring practice and summer workouts, defensive coordinator Ted Roof said Harrington was a sponge, working as hard as he could to learn the new defense and take in all the coaching from the new staff.

And Roof isn’t the only one who has been impressed with Harrington’s work.

Venables himself pointed to the work the defensive back has put in, highlighting how Harrington’s unique skillset can be an asset to the Oklahoma defense this season.

“I love his versatility,” Venables said during a press conference on Wednesday. “He’s big. He’s long. He’s athletic. Got good instincts, sudden, explosive, he’s rangy.”

Standing 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds, Harrington is the tallest defensive back on the team.

A smooth athlete, his size and physicality brings a different element to the back end of OU’s defense.

Last week, Roof said Harrington is a name the Sooners are looking at for the cheetah position, as his size and coverage skills would allow him to handle both the duties of a nickel corner and an undersized linebacker at that spot.

He’ll have plenty of competition, however, as Roof said veteran defensive back Justin Broiles, North Carolina transfer Trey Morrison and true freshman linebacker Jaren Kanak are also getting snaps at the cheetah position.

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Once rated as the best junior college safety in the nation by 247 Sports, Harrington arrived at Oklahoma ahead of the 2020 season with big expectations.

But just as fall camp was getting underway in 2020, the Raleigh, NC, product was sidelined with a previously undiagnosed knee injury that required surgery and cost him the entire season.

Last year, Harrington failed to break into the tight secondary rotation before opting to hit the transfer portal after four games.

Though he mostly played corner last year, Venables said Harrington could get a shot at a few different spots all over the field this season.

“He can play man. Can play zone. Football’s easy for him,” Venables said. “Got a big strong live body. And so we’re gonna look at multiple positions. Not everybody can do that and still play at a pretty high level. So we’re trying to develop depth and diversity within the scheme.

“And he’s one of those players we feel like is going to be able to give us some position flexibility.”

Harrington will have to continue to earn a bigger role on the practice field, but he’s on a path to finally realizing his potential for the Crimson and Cream in 2022. 

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