By Michael Kinney
Jordan Parker called it that dog. That’s how the redshirt sophomore described the ingredient the safeties at Oklahoma will be playing with this season.
Parker, who made the switch from cornerback to safety in the offseason, is just one of the members of the last line of defense that seems to have that dog quality. And it has made the competition during practice relentless.
“You have a bunch of dogs back there,” Parker said Tuesday after practice. “Justin Broiles, Robert Barnes and Kahil Haughton, it just makes everybody hungry back there. So, there is great competition back there.”
Even an offensive mind like coach Lincoln Riley has gotten a kick out of the battle going on at safety.
“It’s fun to watch, honestly. Fun to watch,” Riley said. “Those guys are really going at it. I think Justin Broiles as really stepped up and done a nice job. To see him flying around and making a lot of plays. He does a great job of just bringing energy to the field all the time. Kind of like Joe Mixon did before. What Orlando Brown has done the last few years. Bringing kind of an infectious energy that really impacts the whole field. Bookie (Brendan Radley-Hiles) is doing a nice job. Delarrin Turner looks like he has a chance. Robert Barnes has done some things. Kahil Haughton I think has stepped up and is playing some of the best ball he has played. You can feel the coemption. They all feel it. And it’s making them better. There is definitely a sense of urgency with that group.”
Of the entire group, many believe Parker is having to make the biggest alterations to his game since he was a cornerback. But in California native’s mind, it’s really not that big of a deal.
“My whole life I’ve played DB, everything on the field,” Parker said. “I also played linebacker when I was younger. So, it really wasn’t a hard transition going from corner to safety.”
According to Riley, it was a decision Parker didn’t fight.
It’s all about both sides being bought in. We’ve always approached those things as you may think it’s right as a coach, but if the player doesn’t believe in it, it doesn’t matter. Those are open conversations we have with guys here. Guys are never going to move positions here at Oklahoma against their will. It’s not ever going to happen. But as we went through it, looked at the depth, looked at his skill set, it made sense. So, he has been mentally bought in the whole time. Not it’s just getting his feet back under him.”
With almost a week of practices under Parker’s belt as safety, the OU coaches like what they have seen.
“Jordan Parker, you could see the first few days was rusty, which is to be expected,” Riley said. “He hadn’t been on the field in a while. And on top of it, a new position. I thought the last couple of days he’s really settled in. Excited about where he can go.”
“Starrland Baldwin retore his ACL that he had repaired right before he got here,” Riley said. “Did it in a non-contact a couple of days ago. Got the word on that. Starrland will have surgery here in the next couple of days. Will miss this season. Will do the full redshirt, probably won’t be available for the four games. I think it will be a good time for him. He can put some weight on. We liked what we saw of him early and we’ll be excited to get him back.”
Coaches address UNC situation:
Thirteen members of the North Carolina football team were recently suspended for as many as four games for selling team-issued Special Edition Air Jordan’s, which is an NCAA violation.
Riley said he has talked to his Sooners, who also wear Jordan Brand gear, about it staying out of such quandaries.
“You constantly have to remind them, even more now that it’s Jordan. The stuff is so in demand,” Riley said. “One of the biggest reasons we made the decision to go to it is because of that. So, absolutely.”
Riley said he doesn’t necessarily agree with the rules, but they still must be followed.
“These rules are tight. Twenty, 30 years ago nobody cared about that stuff,” Riley said. “It’s hard. I sympathize with the athlete a little bit on it because that’s their stuff. We push about equality and we can’t do what other students can do. Well, students can go sell their stuff. I don’t agree with it, but it doesn’t matter. That is the rule. We absolutely covered it and don’t expect any issues here.”
Sooners respond to criticism:
Earlier this week, ESPN’s Greg McElroy called Oklahoma the most overrated team in the coaches’ top-25 poll. A few of the players responded to the statement.
“We love it,” Parker said. “That’s what we are driven by. A lot of doubt.”
Linebacker Caleb Kelly says it’s just part of being a Sooner.
“We’re at Oklahoma and every year we see this happening,” Kelly said. “We’re getting used to it, but we always love the motivation. Nobody likes Oklahoma and really Oklahoma doesn’t like anybody else. That’s how it should be. They are just doing their job, I guess. But we’re always going to have our own backs. We’re always going to prove ourselves, so we’re real good at doing that. And we’ll continue to do that, for sure.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com