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OU football: Sooners' secondary was undersized in 2019, but reinforcements are coming

Oklahoma's Justin Broiles (25) runs back an interception during the spring game. Broiles was part of the Sooners' undersized secondary last season. [Photo by Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman Archives]
Oklahoma's Justin Broiles (25) runs back an interception during the spring game. Broiles was part of the Sooners' undersized secondary last season. [Photo by Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman Archives]

NORMAN — Woodi Washington was in the right position. But there was little he could do.

Not long after being inserted into the Peach Bowl against LSU, the OU freshman was a target of LSU’s offense. Justin Jefferson hauled in a touchdown pass from Joe Burrow and the rout continued.

The other secondary player who was forced into significant action in that game, Justin Broiles, sometimes was similarly hamstrung.

Washington is listed at 5-foot-11. Broiles at 5-foot-10.

While both are expected to continue to contribute in the Sooners’ secondary moving forward, it was stark proof that the Sooners need to add size on the back end of the defense.

At 6-feet even, Parnell Motley didn’t exactly tower over a lot of his teammates.

But among the secondary — at least the ones who played regularly in 2019 — Motley was the tallest of the group.

Of the 17 scholarship players listed at sub-six feet tall on the 2019 roster, 10 of them were in the secondary.

“I know a big part of it — we talked about it on signing day — is adding more length in the secondary,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “And you’re not going to have every guy be 6-3, but you’re not going to have every guy be 5-10 either.”

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who arrived a year ago, said adding size and speed in the secondary was one of the primary focuses in recruiting.

Grinch wasn’t able to do that in 2019, as the Sooners’ recruiting in the secondary was done by the time he arrived. But the change in focus was evident in the Sooners’ December signing class

Of the four defensive backs Oklahoma has signed for 2020, two are 6-foot-3 and another is 6-foot-2. Another who figures to play defensive back, Davon Graham, is 6-foot-0.

“It was about speed, man,” Riley said of the most recent signees. “I mean, this is Speed D so that’s not going to be compromised, but also about adding some length in the secondary. That has been a focus point for Coach Grinch and Coach (Roy) Manning from the day we walked in here was to continue to try to add some length and we felt like we’ve done that and will continue to do that in this class.”

Bryson Washington, at 6-foot-2, 196 pounds, seems to typify exactly what Grinch is searching for in the secondary.

“Bryson’s one of those guys that we really think possess both of those main skill sets,” Grinch said. “Certainly moves and plays the way we’d like him to.”

But it’s not just about the incoming players and the defensive backs who played a big role this season.

Others, like Washington, still figure to have a role.

“I haven’t played a lot this year but just learning from being out there (in the Peach Bowl) was a good experience,” Washington said. “I kind of figured they were going to come after me once I got in since I hadn’t played a lot this year but it was a great experience.”

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma's Pat Fields (10) sacks Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) during the Red River Showdown in October. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman Archives]</strong>

Oklahoma's Pat Fields (10) sacks Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) during the Red River Showdown in October. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman Archives]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-578a152d1658c02021803c05adbbc499.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma's Pat Fields (10) sacks Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) during the Red River Showdown in October. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman Archives] " title=" Oklahoma's Pat Fields (10) sacks Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) during the Red River Showdown in October. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman Archives] "><figcaption> Oklahoma's Pat Fields (10) sacks Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) during the Red River Showdown in October. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman Archives] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b9bec9cfc6ff42983d4cae57a9fdcb90.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma's Justin Broiles (25) runs back an interception during the spring game. Broiles was part of the Sooners' undersized secondary last season. [Photo by Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman Archives] " title=" Oklahoma's Justin Broiles (25) runs back an interception during the spring game. Broiles was part of the Sooners' undersized secondary last season. [Photo by Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman Archives] "><figcaption> Oklahoma's Justin Broiles (25) runs back an interception during the spring game. Broiles was part of the Sooners' undersized secondary last season. [Photo by Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman Archives] </figcaption></figure>
Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

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