Each Saturday this summer, SI Sooners examines 10 players on the Oklahoma roster who can elevate their ceiling in 2021 with a big offseason. Today: Cornerback Jaden Davis.
With Tre Brown now in Seattle, Oklahoma’s Jaden Davis has a real opportunity ahead of him in 2021. The Sooners have an immediate opening at cornerback.
Davis is among a handful of players auditioning for the job. Cornerbacks coach Roy Manning has what looks like plenty of qualified options, and when the time comes, Manning will have a tough choice to make.
Among those in line, Davis has the most actual game experience at corner, a total of 23 career games and seven career starts.
But the way third-year sophomore Woodi Washington played late last season in replacing Davis in the starting lineup (he started five of the final six games), Washington would seem to have a pretty firm grip on one of the two jobs.
And the way D.J. Graham flashed as a freshman last year (he took over for Brown in the Cotton Bowl after Brown opted out) — and then flashed again in April’s Red/White Game — Graham would seem to present the best option at the other corner.
Clearly, this is a big offseason for Davis.
Now a junior, the 5-foot-10, 181-pound product of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, FL, was the Sooners’ top backup as a true freshman in 2019 behind Brown and Parnell Motley. He was one of just three scholarship corners the Sooners took into the Peach Bowl against the most explosive offense in college football history — LSU.
Davis opened 2020 as the starter opposite Brown, but Washington — previously a nickel defensive back — shifted to corner, eventually emerged and overtook Davis with his aggressive style of play and high-flying acrobatics. Washington’s end zone interception late in the Texas game helped stave off defeat, and his ability to shadow receivers while tracking down and high-pointing the football in the air was something that stood out.
Davis started the first five games, then came off the bench.
“I feel like last year was completely a learning lesson,” Davis said. “As a player, had ups and downs along the season. I had opportunities to start, I had opportunities not to start, and I know how that feels.”
Now Davis is contending for snaps not only with Washington and Graham, but two other corners who played well in the spring game: sophomore Joshua Eaton and junior Justin Harrington. Harrington came to OU as a junior college All-American at safety, but he seemed to transition nicely to corner this spring. And true freshman Latrell McCutchin is said to be an up-and-coming precocious talent at the position.
It’s a crowded room, but Davis is approaching his offseason with the kind of confidence and positive attitude that might very well be rewarded with playing time this fall.
“I feel like last season I learned a lot,” Davis said. “I learned a lot about myself. I learned about dealing with everything. And I feel that I needed that last (season).
“And this spring it’s really helped me. I feel like I’ve really progressed as a player in my press technique and just knowing the defense. I feel like I’m 100 percent knowing the defense like the back of my hand.”