byrd 2014 Spring Football Preview| Faces of Tomorrow | Part One

Image via Sooner Sports

There is a lot of young talent on this Oklahoma team, but I wanted to countdown five (or so) players that I will be watching closely as we head into spring practice and then into fall camp.

We’ll start with No. 5 and work our way forward.

5. Hatari Byrd

When I first saw Hatari in the fall, he looked like a JUCO transfer. He is built like he came out of a lab. In fall practices, he was working in as with the second team at SS, and I look for him to be the guy that takes over for Gabe Lynn. He is extremely physical and reminds me, at times, of Tony Jefferson. He has the physical tools to match up with any Tight End or H-Back in the Big 12. However, I do get slightly nervous with his back pedal into break against smaller slot receivers. He must hone in on his technique right off the line and not allow them to get into space. I think overall though, Byrd is a very good talent. He will ‘wow’ people with his warrior mentality. I don’t see him making a ton of interceptions over the top in a Cover 2, but I believe his speed and agility will play well enough for us to see those KO blows we all want and can really shift the momentum of a game.

T-4. Dakota Austin

Despite being one of Oklahoma’s last offers back in the 2013 class, Austin has already heard his name called. He even received playing time in the Sugar Bowl, which says a lot about where the coaches believe his game to be. He has great hips and long arms, which allows him to have excellent ball skills as well. He has a great high point when facing taller receivers due to his long wingspan. There are similarities to Aaron Colvin when I see his game.

OU seems to really be switching to a lot of Cover One, Cover One robber, and some Cover 2. All of these are coverages that Austin excels in, especially Cover 2. He can diagnose plays very quickly and has an outstanding break on the ball. In high school, he seemed to play more zone and some off-man coverages. I want to see what strides he has made when he presses, since I see the tools necessary to do so even in the limited attempts I saw against larger relievers and in the red zone. Long arms, high pointing the football, above average quick hands, but his hand placement must improve initially off the line off scrimmage.

T-4. Stanvon Taylor

Stanvon was able to be plugged in early at times when Aaron Colvin went down with his shoulder/toe injuries. He played in all 13 games this year, mostly on special teams, and even had a start against Tulsa. The first series in that Tulsa game was a little rough for him with three completed passes to his man and a pass interference in the red zone. Obviously not the best way to start a game out, however he didn’t hang his head. Next series he almost had a pick six when a miscommunication happened between the Tulsa QB and WR.

Taylor plays with playing of moxie and looks to me like the ideal candidate for a true nickel back player. He is a quick twitch athlete with very fluid hips that excels at getting in and out of his break. Some of his technique did leave him a little flat footed at times but, at Tulsa East Central he was mainly an offensive player that would line up in the slot and they’d get him the rock in whatever way they could. His potential is very high and while he does look to be a little bit on the smaller side, I believe he actually excels most when he is pressed up against man because of his quick hands and good placement.

The ceiling is very high for Taylor, Colvin is a tough loss but we are not rebuilding at the corner position, rather reloading.


  • Bill Duncan

    Through attrition and the loss of LJ, do you think this gives Windham an open door to playing as a TF?

    • Jordan Esco

      Just my opinion, but I’d say the odds of that are pretty low. Injuries could change that, but assuming health I believe he’s a strong redshirt candidate.

    • Super K

      I really don’t think LJ would have been on the depth chart. I think the 4 2-deep corners would have been Sanchez, Austin, Johnson and Taylor.

    • bmrsnr

      Coaches will evaluate and probably let him decide. Since he is so far from home I doubt he rs, especially since he can be used on ST. RS often feel alienated and that is only compounded when they are a thousand miles from home, probably why you saw guys like Byrd, Thomas and Moore play but not much so they could be around the team.

      • Andrew

        The talent is there, no question about that, I just feel that with the depth we building it would make sense to start building for the future and not just the present….Does that make sense to anybody??
        Plus he is getting an outstanding education!!!!

  • Zack

    Great stuff. I like Taylor I know he’s smaller as mentioned in one of the previous threads but he appeared to play bigger than his size suggests. Does Wilson have the ability to play outside against a bigger/slower receiver?

    • Alex_K

      Wilson more than handled his own last year against smaller, quicker receivers in guys like Josh Stewart from OSU. And he has shown the ability to make plays in single coverage across the middle. If I’m not mistake he was lined up on OJ Howard in the sugar bowl who finished with 1 catch. So, yeah he can handle bigger & slower receivers without a doubt in my opinion.

      • Zack

        I like him a lot they just always play him as the nickel. I didn’t know if he didn’t have the speed for the outside.

        • Alex_K

          Speed is one of the key things he brings to the table along with his size at 6-foot-2 & 199-pounds. He clocked a 10.2 in the 100 his junior year in high school and supposedly clocked as fast as a 4.35 as well. Now mind you he has gotten bigger but he still has plenty of speed.

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ Ace

            Alex is right, Wilson did an excellent job on Howard who many guys I’ve talked to say is a 1st round talent. His speed is outrageous especially in the straight line, he at times as stiff hips but he makes up for it by being outrageous quick into his break. Wilson posted the fastest 40 time at the Florida University camp back in high school which is just a s sample of his wheels.

  • Blake Lee

    Are there any updates on Ahmad Thomas, the safety out of florida? The kid looked like a beast coming out of high school and I haven’t really heard anything about him.

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ Ace

      I really like Thomas, the dude is a punisher. I have been hearing some rumors that there is a safety that potentially could be moving to linebacker and my guess it would be Thomas. I think Mike really is wanting to shift to this man coverage look, similar to Seattle and Thomas at times looked to be too stiff hipped to have the versatility to play against smaller slots. However he does have the range in a cover 2 or 3 and play over the top. Thomas is best attributes is physical nature of the game and a great tackler. He got some time last year and stoops had plenty of praise for him last spring when he came in and into the fall. This year he will be at the very least a special teams warrior

    • Shifty

      According to the roster Thomas is the same size as Alexander..Like Ace says, I see him moving closer to the line

    • Alexander

      He jumped out me as much as if not more than anyone else on D who was a Freshman in the portions of the spring game I saw last year. Expecting great things

  • Andrew

    I think that Tito should red shirt if possible….I would hate to see him burn a year and only play a total of 30 minutes the whole year(Ty Darlington)!!!! Practice and get coached up, then next year come in stronger and have a better understanding of what is going on.

  • Alex_K

    Dakota Austin has good footwork & really quick feet but will need to get bigger to be able to come up and make tackles against the run on a consistent basis. Mike Stoops worked him like crazy the summer going into his junior year at the Oklahoma summer camp. You could tell then he liked what he saw out of Austin.

  • Alex_K

    One other thing to know was that at that summer camp I am referring to, it was K.D. Cannon he was battling rep after rep and really held his own the majority of the time.

  • pitbull17

    If Taylor improves as much as he should over the off season the secondary will be sitting pretty. Colvin was an awesome football player and will be hard to replace but the talent is there in spades now.

  • DrBoomerSooner

    Charles Walker just posted a picture on instagram showing that he ran a 4.67 40…fastest of any DT in Oklahoma history. We have a bunch of beasts on the D-Line.

    • Alex_K

      The dude is extremely athletic and his film from his senior year showed that. 4.67 at 289 pounds though? That’s ridiculous.

    • bmrsnr

      link?

      • Jordan Esco

        Was just gonna ask the same thing. Can you give a link, DrBoomer

        • DrBoomerSooner

          Beast Mode

          • Jordan Esco

            What’s his Instagram handle?

          • DrBoomerSooner
          • Jordan Esco

            Okay, one more annoying request. I’m not on Instagram, so I can’t get the pick. Can you link to that actual pick from his account?

          • DrBoomerSooner
          • Jordan Esco

            Weird. Comes up as page not found. Regardless, appreciate you taking the time!

          • DrBoomerSooner

            It is possible that his account is protected and therefore you must be following him to view the post.

            You should really get instagram though, especially considering how much of a Sooner fanatic you are.

          • Jordan Esco

            Oh, I’m sure it’s possible.

            As to me getting it, honestly I held out on social media stuff for so long I just really don’t want to get anymore involved than I already am w/ Twitter. That is already way too much of an obsession. Just ask my wife.

          • DrBoomerSooner

            lol I feel you man. If I studied as hard as I obsessed about OU, I’d be on my way to taking over Dr James Andrews’ job.

          • bmrsnr

            Surprised Tapper isn’t in the top two for DEs.

          • Pokerman

            Me too. I don’t know if anyone noticed it but on Alabama’s third play from scrimmage in the Sugar Bowl it wasn’t a DB that ran down the receiver from behind before he could score. It was Tapper!

          • Gregor

            That was one of my favorite plays(in retrospect) of the game. We had to stop the game to watch the replay.

          • soonermusic

            Yeah, Tapper made a couple of guys look like they were standing still as he flew by–remarkable.

          • http://www.galoor.com/ Clint Lenard

            Interesting. I’d like to see Walker vs. Manziel in a 40 yard dash. My money is on the big man, unless there’s Drake and booze at the finish line.

          • pitbull17

            That’s stupid fast for a guy his size! Glad I’ll never have to worry about him chasing me down.

          • Sooner Ray

            That’s just a tad slower than I ran at 185lb’s in HS. Like you said, it’s stupid fast for a big guy.

          • L’carpetron Dookmarriot

            40, power clean, and squat for Grissom are outrageous. Typically, many don’t have very good clean technique. Thus, my expectation is that Grissom is still giving away kilos by letting energy escape in the wrong directions.

            It’s a SWAG.

  • Adrian

    Like I said before, I hung with Hatari and he looks like a linebacker. Dude is huge, plays a lot like Jefferson but is built like Corey Nelson

  • John Garner

    Thanx! I don’t know much about football but I’m getting smarter by reading your blog.

  • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ Ace

    I think it will be very tough for Tito to be able to crack the first four CBs. As Super K quick depth chart to me looks to be accurate. Plus CB is one of the toughest transitions and almost every corner that as been brought in from Andre Woolfolk, Derrick Strait, Jamell Fleming, and Aaron Colvin have all had to redshirt. However, I love what Tito brings to the game in every facet, few players I saw this year have that type of closing speed on bubble routes and anything quick underneath. Plus his straight line speed is unreal, dude can fly. That culmination with his awareness of the sideline with vertical routes and him being able to high point over receivers that looked much taller shows a lot of promise.

    • Shifty

      AC didn’t redshirt..actually started the RRR as a true fresh…corner is a lot easier to learn than safety and we have seen true fresh step in consistently (I remember as far back as Franks)…I agree w SKs 4cbs but sometimes dbs don’t redshirt for special teams alone..we need some solid coverage and tackling ability out there on ST and we always see skilled position fresh burn their shirts for STs alone

      • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ Ace

        You’re right AC didn’t RS, nice call boss. I always think he was in the same class as I was. However, Franks did redshirt when he came out of Union then was a ST stalwart and contributed at CB. Great question though about a true freshmen safety. I want to say the last time that happened would be Nic Harris in 2005 started at safety against Kansas State and Texas. He and Reggie Smith were both starting in the secondary those games, I believe. I wouldn’t be surprised this year to see that drought end though.

  • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ Ace

    I really like Thomas, the dude is a punisher. I have been hearing some rumors that there is a safety that potentially could be moving to linebacker and my guess it would be Thomas. I think Mike really is wanting to shift to this man coverage look, similar to Seattle and Thomas at times looked to be too stiff hipped to have the versatility to play against smaller slots. However he does have the range in a cover 2 or 3 and play over the top. Thomas is best attributes is physical nature of the game and a great tackler. He got some time last year and stoops had plenty of praise for him last spring when he came in and into the fall. This year he will be at the very least a special teams warrior.

  • Sooner Ray

    Love the insight on these young db’s Ace. not sure we will have Colvin style play right out the gate but I think all these guys have the potential to be special once the season gets rolling. Really excited about where this defense could go this season.

    • Boomer4life

      It’s gonna go into Beast mode direction Ray!

  • Rob Turner

    Do you Brainiacs have info on Wesley Horky long snapper visiting this weekend. If so how can he be part of the 2014 class?

    • territorysooner

      Not everyone that signed is expected to qualify so it appears there will probably be room for Horky.

      • Rob Turner

        Thank you

  • L’carpetron Dookmarriot

    All DBs. OK. I’ll allow it.

  • Boomer4life

    Byrd is going to be beast! Loved the comment “warrior mentality”. Let’s hope everyone on D brings the same mentality.

    • blaster1371

      Yep. Hope he gets the start, I’ve been anxious to see him play! Same goes for the frosh LB Tay Evans. He should redshirt but I just can’t bit help think he is a gamer considering the HS program he came out of- something like consecutive state titles or title game appearances.

      • Alexander

        Blaster, Tay is one of the few videos I’ve seen and I disagree. He has good potential don’t get me wrong but appears to be a 2 year project minimum. He disappears on the field at times and if the ball didn’t come to his side of the field he wasn’t making the play in the footage I saw. If he wasn’t at Allen he may of been a 2 star. The QB at Allen who will be a senior this year is my favorite player in this class that I’ve seen. A extremely rare talent who will single handedly take over games at the college level. If he adds some armor to handle the hits better he will be a Heismen frontrunner based on what I’ve seen.Wish OU had a legit shot at him, appears to be yet another aggie lean

        • blaster1371

          He certainly needs to put on some weight. I didn’t think he would be a potential starter his freshman year. I understand he was hurt his junior season and had some “catching up” to his senior year.

  • EasTex

    When Byrd showed up on campus last June the other defenders couldn’t believe how he was built, one player even called him “prison swole.”
    On video Windham thoroughly impressed me. Every down I saw on video he was fast, focused and powerful. He plays much bigger than his actual height.

  • blaster1371

    When is the first spring practice?

    • Jordan Esco

      March 8th