OU secondary has local flavor
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
5/31/12 at 8:01 AM
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NORMAN - Oklahoma is in need of defensive backs, and the Sooner coaches have tapped into greater Tulsa as their first option.
Spring football practice opened at OU on Monday, and a pair of locals stood at the front of the line when drills began.
Aaron Colvin, a sophomore from Owasso, has moved into the starting strong safety spot, and Gabe Lynn, a third-year sophomore from Jenks, has taken over at one cornerback spot.
Last preseason, Lynn was behind Jamell Fleming and Demontre Hurst on the depth chart, but was quickly passed by Colvin.
Colvin started against Texas and was OU's third corner throughout the 2010 season.
With Fleming's absence from the team this spring for academic improprieties - coach Bob Stoops on Monday declined to discuss whether Fleming would be allowed to return in the fall - and with Colvin's move to safety, the 6-foot, 188-pound Lynn sits, for now, atop the depth chart, which Stoops said is a vote of confidence for him.
"Gabe has had a great winter, and Coach (Jerry) Schmidt's been really excited about his (strength and conditioning) progress through the winter," Stoops said. "So sure, we're anxious to see him continue to develop on the field."
Colvin is slightly built - he's listed as 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds - so it may seem unorthodox to play him at strong safety. While Stoops stressed that the move "is experimental," he seemed confident Colvin would stay there, and used a recent precedent to explain.
"Much like we moved Jonathan Nelson from corner to that position because of his speed and athleticism, the way that strong safety plays, in today's world, the guy has to have corner-like ability, to be able to run and change direction, because of the nature of so many spread-out teams," Stoops said.
Nelson played corner his first three years at OU before starting two years at strong safety. Now he's one of three defensive backs (Fleming and free safety Quinton Carter are the others) the Sooners need to replace this spring.
The 5-10, 190-pound Nelson played fast and with a ferocity that Colvin showed at times in his limited action last season.
OU coaches hope the same strong natural football instincts that got Colvin on the field as a first-year freshman help him make a smooth transition to safety.
Stoops said the strong safety of the 21st century doesn't play quite the same game strong safeties did even 10 years ago.
"That position is usually to the split-out side or wide side of the field, where there are 2-3 receivers," Stoops said. "And a lot of times, even if he's playing zone and gets some underneath coverage, anything down the middle of the field, he's in a man-(to-man coverage) position against a speed receiver, a slot receiver.
"So it's not like the old days of two tight ends or pro (formation) or twins (two receivers) where there's '21' personnel (tight end and fullback) on the field ... where that guy's taking on blockers and filling holes. That isn't so much the position any more. Eighty or 90 percent of the time, he's out in a spread position."
Monday was the first of 15 practices. The Sooners usually have two major scrimmages and one or two minor scrimmages before the Red/White Game (April 16 this year), so there's plenty of opportunity to determine if Colvin can make the switch.
And then there's the rest of the depth chart. During last year's wild Bedlam contest in Stillwater, Nelson sustained a concussion and Javon Harris ably replaced him.
Now Harris is listed as Carter's replacement at free safety, backed up by Sam Proctor. Two years ago, Proctor was a starter. Things could always change.
"All those guys have to continue to do it when it comes time in practice and in competitive situations and scrimmages," Stoops said. "A lot of that will have to be seen, for Aaron and Gabe and all of them as we move forward with it."
OU spring football dates
March: 23, 25, 26, 29, 31
April: 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 15, *16, 19
(subject to change; all practices closed)
John E. Hoover 918-581-8384
Aaron Colvin: Former Owasso standout has moved into the starting strong safety spot for the Sooners.
Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin celebrates after coming up with a stop against Texas. Colvin, a sophomore from Owasso, has moved into the starting strong safety spot. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World file