Alex Grinch Spring Game post

Alex Grinch Spring Game post

Oklahoma Spring Review: A Closer Look at Justin Harrington's Spring Game

It became apparent during the Sooners' Red/White game why Alex Grinch and Roy Manning decided to move Harrington to cornerback.
Author:
Publish date:

Oklahoma coaches had a good reason for moving Justin Harrington from safety to cornerback for spring practice this offseason.

Harrington may be a natural at the position.

Zeroing in on Harrington’s results from the Sooners’ Red/White Game on April 24, he is physical and aggressive in pass coverage, seems to know how to use his hands to create subtle advantages and at times appears to seek out contact.

In other words, he covers like a corner but hits like a safety – which must be an enticing combination for defensive backs coaches Alex Grinch and Roy Manning.

Justin Harrington

Justin Harrington

Harrington played four series in the truncated scrimmage, registering 28 plays that were mostly uneventful but did enough to showcase his quickness and agility as well as his power and instincts.

With the No. 1 offense going up against mostly the No. 2 defense and vice versa, Harrington’s day started on the third series (the second series for the 2s). Starter Woodi Washington, a third-year sophomore, was out with an injury, so sophomore D.J. Graham and third-year junior Jaden Davis played on the No. 1 defense, while freshman Latrell McCutchin and sophomore Josh Eaton opened up with the 2s.

Wearing a brace on his right knee, Harrington opened at right corner and drew the assignment of covering Jadon Haselwood. The first three plays went away from Harrington, but on the fourth, Spencer Rattler tried to hit Haselwood on a comeback route.

Harrington’s coverage was tight, and as Haselwood tried to get in and out of his break, Harrington’s hands went to Haselwood’s face, hindering his motion. Rattler’s throw was high and incomplete – which turned out well for the offense, because a good throw likely would have been intercepted. Harrington easily broke underneath Haselwood’s route but the ball was uncatchable and out of bounds.

Harrington stayed in the game at left corner for the next series but didn’t get much action as he lined up against freshman walk-on Marcellus Crutchfield. On a screen pass underneath, Harrington didn’t get off Crutchfield’s block. On a short throw across the middle, Harrington got away from Crutchfield and was able to support the play. And on a quick-hitch throw to Crutchfield, Harrington – playing off at the line of scrimmage – came up and assisted on the tackle with a hard, low hit on Crutchfield.

Graham started the second half at left corner, but on the first play – a deep post throw on which Mario Williams took the football out of Graham’s hands – Graham went down with a leg cramp.

Harrington replaced him and found himself in a completely different situation than what he had seen in the first half. He opened up in loose coverage on Mario Williams, who went in motion to the inside and left Harrington one-on-one with Marvin Mims, but it was a running play. The next play, he was loose again, this time on Williams, who caught a quick hitch in front of Harrington. Harrington came up again to make a strong tackle while linebacker Bryan Mead assisted.

Then the offense threw the ball on three straight plays from a tight formation, and Harrington was in coverage against three different receivers – tight end Austin Stogner, slot receiver Mario Williams and H-back Jeremiah Hall. The first two throws went away from Harrington, but on the third, Hall ran a quick stop-and-go and left Harrington behind as he bolted into the end zone. But Rattler threw to Stogner in the corner, and Bryson Washington almost intercepted.

Harrington got seven plays on his final series before Eaton replaced him, then when Eaton appeared to tweak something, Harrington came back in for five more snaps. Harrington again didn’t get off a block on a dump-off across the middle, but then hustled to take a good angle on a long run by Jaden Knowles to the opposite sideline, and lastly was in good position in coverage on Micah Bowens’ end zone throw to Crutchfield.

Harrington, a fourth-year junior who has three seasons of eligibility left after sitting out 2020 with a knee injury following his two seasons at Bakersfield Junior College, may yet move back to safety. Then again, with returning starters Delarrin Turner-Yell and Pat Fields (who was out for the spring game) both back with two years’ starting experience, and Tennessee transfer Key Lawrence looking very capable at free safety in the Red/White Game, it’s crowded.

Justin Harrington

Justin Harrington

Nickel back has a similar feel, with Jeremiah Criddell (injured for the scrimmage) likely having a grip on the starter’s role and freshman Billy Bowman showing consistency, smarts and big-play ability in the spring game. The No. 2 nickel last week was sophomore Kendall Dennis, who had an up-and-down performance.

Nickel is a pushpin position in Grinch’s defense that comes with inherent complexities. Grinch’s safeties make a lot of calls and have big responsibilities. So Harrington’s transition to corner has suited him this spring, allowing the former juco All-American to get back into the flow of just playing football again from a corner’s perspective.

Harrington certainly seems capable. He had no busts, and other than the sneaky double move by Hall, he was in hip-pocket coverage all day regardless of which player he drew.

He clearly adds talent and depth to a position that took only three scholarship players to the Peach Bowl less than two years ago. He’ll be ready when his number is called.

The question now is, with the other five corners apparently ahead of Harrington all younger than him, will he have enough time to make up ground and become a starter?

Oklahoma coaches had a good reason for moving Justin Harrington from safety to cornerback for spring practice this offseason.

Harrington may be a natural at the position.

Zeroing in on Harrington’s results from the Sooners’ Red/White Game on April 24, he is physical and aggressive in pass coverage, seems to know how to use his hands to create subtle advantages and at times appears to seek out contact.

Member Exclusive

Get Exclusive Access to All Sooners Content