OU Practice Report: Dakota Austin Says Secondary 'Can Be Best In The Country'
Only 25 more days until the Sooners officially begin their 2016 campaign with a matchup against Houston, but there's still a lot to be done on the practice field until that long awaited date finally arrives.
After OU's offensive players spoke highly of the team on Monday, some of the defensive players got a chance to talk with the media after practice Tuesday morning. Here are a few highlights:
Dakota Austin believes OU secondary could be best in college football
With Parker, Jordan Thomas and Ahmad Thomas all returning in the secondary along with nickel back Will Johnson, the Sooners will surely have a stout defensive backfield with plenty of experience. But OU cornerback Dakota Austin believes this group has a chance to be the best in all of college football.
“I feel like we can be the best in the country if we’re clicking on all cylinders, everybody on the right page, everybody’s head’s good going into the game, I feel like that’ll be really great," Austin said.
Austin started both the Kansas and Iowa State games last season while Zack Sanchez sat out with an injury, but now Austin faces the task of replacing Sanchez full-time. Austin totaled two interceptions last season, while he's also capable of bringing down the ball carrier if necessary.
“Dakota’s one of those guys that he’s just got that mentality, where it doesn’t matter who you are, he feels like he’s the underdog because of his size a little bit, maybe his speed at times, he carries that chip on his shoulder," defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said.
Austin seems ready for the challenge of stepping in, and credited Sanchez for teaching him mental toughness.
“He’s a really a tougher person than he gets credit for," Austin said of Sanchez. "He dealt with a lot in the time I saw him here. Just mental toughness and to be able to get beat and come back on the next play, that’s what a cornerback does.”
Michiah Quick's position switch paying off
After playing the position of receiver his first three years on campus, Michiah Quick opted to make the change to cornerback during the offseason. Despite totaling nine catches for 103 yards last fall, Quick felt he'd have a bigger role on the defensive side of the ball.
“We left the decision for him," Coach Cooks said. "Basically we told him that with the power house guys we have on offense beside Dede, beside Baxter, he may be a fourth or fifth option over there, where he could be maybe a one or two option on defense. So we left it up to him, gave him a couple of days and it was an easy decision for him once he sat back and thought about it.”
Quick was recruited as an athlete out of Central East High School in Fresno, Calif., but the junior is taking advantage of the opportunity to line up against his former position group everyday in practice.
“I think Quick’s just a natural competitor, obviously he’s calling out some of the plays they’re running, because he’s known the system and has been over there for three years, but at the end of the day he’s just a competitor," Cooks said.
Cooks also complimented Quick, saying he's working on his game and executing, but admits he still has a lot to learn from a mental standpoint.
“Just being detailed every snap, the position is a little different than wide receiver because if you drop the ball you don’t have to worry about giving up six points, but if you’re not on point at DB, particularly at corner, you’re going to give up a big one and can cost the team,” Cooks said.
Seeing he's had experience playing on Saturdays, Quick is plenty aware of what it'll take to be successful at his new position.
“I just know I’ve got to be on my A game every day," Quick said. "Every time we step in-between these lines from warm ups to pre-practice, or actual practice, I just know I’ve got to be out there every time competing.”
Steven Parker taking on leadership role
With the Sooners' defense losing strong vocal leaders such as Eric Striker, Zack Sanchez and Charles Tapper, it means some of the returning defensive players will need to take on that role this upcoming season. One of those players is junior safety Steven Parker.
“This season I know I have to be vocal," Parker said. "I’m taking it upon myself to basically try to be a leader for the defense, try to talk, and even encourage the offense as far as receivers since we’re going against each other all the time. Me and Ahmad (Thomas) actually do it."
In a practice setting, it's no secret the Oklahoma offense and defense battle it out on a daily basis and things can get heated at times, but Parker said it's for a good cause.
"Like today, we whooped their butt in 1-on-1’s, we were talking all this stuff, and they come out and whoop our butt the last part of practice after special teams," Parker said. "It’s one of those things where we’re teammates, but you kind of have to get used to people talking in your ear, and of course having bragging rights in the locker room a bit.”
Parker's leadership on the field is overflowing to his habits off the field as well. Parker had some pretty powerful statements regarding the team's most recent guest speaker, Brenda Tracy, who's an activist against sexual assault after she was raped by two former Oregon State football players back in 1998.
“We won’t tolerate that at all," Parker said. "That’s one thing where we’re all on the same page, if we were in that situation, that situation would’ve never happened because we all know that we’re not like that and if it were going on, we would definitely take action. That’s all I’ll say as far as that has to go. We really loved the story, we thought it had a positive impact on us and I really feel for her.”