Tre Norwood’s knee injury has disrupted Oklahoma’s efforts to shore up college football’s most porous secondary, but new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch isn’t fazed.
Operating either way with a mostly clean slate, Grinch said before Norwood’s mishap that he hoped players from the Sooners’ defensive backfield — pockmarked the last three years by inconsistency and poor coverage — would find confidence in their good performances.
“It’s imperative that our guys on an individual basis take stock in some of the moments they’ve been in, some of the stages that they’ve performed on,” Grinch said last week. “I think it’s on them to kind of go back to those moments from a confidence standpoint and say, ‘I’ve been in the arena.’ The more guys that have been in it can be advantageous.”
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Norwood was fine at Monday’s practice, but on Tuesday he was reportedly on crutches with a wrap on his knee.
Norwood, a junior from Fort Smith, Arkansas, started the Sooners’ first 12 games at cornerback last season, then switched to strong safety for the Big 12 Championship Game and the Orange Bowl as the Sooners shifted to a 4-3 front. He had been practicing at nickel this preseason.
Parnell Motley, who started the first six games last year at corner — with some up-and-down results — before Tre Brown took over the starting job, resumed his cornerback duties again in the postseason.
Moving forward, Motley, a senior from Washington, D.C., likely keeps the cornerback job for now. Motley has 21 career starts in his 39 career games.
Jordan Parker, a junior from Pittsburg, California, entered the lineup at midseason and started the final eight games of his freshman year in 2016, but then suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2017 opener. He played in eight games last year (one start), but didn’t play in the Sooners’ final three games of 2018.
Radley-Hiles, a sophomore from Inglewood, California (via IMG Academy in Florida), played in 13 games last year and made 11 starts. He started nine games at strong safety and two at nickelback, although Grinch said last week that his position this season would be nickel. He may be better suited to remain at safety, but he also could get a look at corner.
“You’d like to have established guys walking out there on the first rep of the series,” Grinch said, “but take advantage of the fact that maybe you don’t and the competition is such that multiple guys could fill that role. The other side of that is the benefit that you’ve got more guys having a viable role on your defense.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.