The Oklahoma secondary was stout in the 2020 season, but they lost three players who have departed in safety Tre Norwood, cornerback Tre Brown and slot corner Brendan Radley-Hiles. With that in mind, Pro Football Focus believes their secondary is their biggest concern coming into 2021.
Oklahoma secondary reasons for concern
The Sooners’ talent should outpace all the flaws this team may have. The Sooners offense is arguably among the best in college football entering the 2021 season. Quarterback Spencer Rattler’s return as a Heisman-trophy candidate allows the Sooners to have a number of pass-catching weapons at their disposal.
Oklahoma has an identically talented pass rush as Ohio State which is considered the best in college football. A pass rush in the Power Five holds more weight than in other levels of the game, via PFF. With all that in mind, their secondary by default has to be the weak link.
Here’s what PFF had to say about the secondary this season:
“Oklahoma fielded a strong secondary in 2020, paving the way for the Sooners to rank 17th of the 65 Power Five programs in unit coverage grade,” the grading site said. “But three of their five highest-graded defensive backs from that group have departed — safety Tre Norwood, cornerback Tre Brown and slot corner Brendan Radley-Hiles — and the secondary is now riding on unproven talent. There is certainly potential, especially in cornerback D.J. Graham, who earned a 72.8 coverage grade as a true freshman in 2020, but the group has a wide range of outcomes.
Still, despite the retool of their secondary, PFF believes the level of concern is a low priority considering their other talents within the roster. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley would tend to agree.
“I really point to the defensive line really becoming a strength of this team and one of the best defensive lines in college football,” Riley said during Big 12 media say. “That really stands out to me.”
Ultimately, if the secondary is average at best in 2021 this team is more than talented enough to still potentially take home its first College Football Playoff title.
Still, their head coach won’t settle for merely average at best.
“We’ve been able to recruit at a higher and higher level, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Riley said. “We look different even just walking into a team meeting room than we did on that side of the ball a few years ago. It just looks different in a positive way.
“Still a lot of work to be done. Extremely high expectations for our defense this season.”