parker 2014 Spring Football Preview| Faces of Tomorrow | Part Two

Image via @Lil_Stevie21

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.

No. 4 & No. 5

3. Steven Parker

I usually don’t like to tout guys that haven’t even stepped foot on campus, but this one is special. I fully believe he was the number one guy that Mike Stoops wanted. Hell, he was even the first offer in the secondary for this class, and he wasn’t even playing varsity football at that point.

He is every bit of 6’2″ and listed around the 195 pound range. He has great range and looks to be fine playing as a Cover 1 Free Safety and has the flexibility to slide down and man up with the slot. When asked to play man in the slot, I was surprised to see him really excel even asked to defend crossing routes. These routes are traditionally very tough to man up with. Even at the pro level you see slots, especially the Broncos, have great success with crossing routes against man coverage.

He understands how to play the “alley” coming down hill and the ability to play in space is something Steven definitely excel at. Which, of course, is imperative for any good safety. He does sometimes lower his shoulder to the point he can get over-extended, but this is something that can be easily corrected with time. That said, against college backs this habit can be unforgiving and we saw both Keenan Clayton and Brandon Everage have a tough time breaking this type of habit.

Parker is a day one “plug in” guy for me. He is mature with his technique, as so many of the Jenks players are. He has the game-changing gene, the one that few rarely have but all crave. In the state championship game this year it didn’t matter if he was playing the slot (on offense) or safety, it was play after play with huge gains or lock down defense. Play-makers, especially young ones, will get burned from time to time. So I am sure you will see a fair share of vintage Mike Stoops ‘chewing of thy backside’ with Parker, but I fully believe he will contribute in a big way and will be the next great safety at the University of Oklahoma.

He was the key recruit for Mike and his defense to fully establish his innovative ways to utilize a pass rush and man-to-man coverage.

 

  • Eric Tauriainen

    He is simply a difference-maker. Special player for sure. So glad we landed him.

    • J.K. Abbott

      My sentiments exactly E.T..

  • Sooner Ray

    Steven had a great Senior year and an awesome state championship game, just wish there had been a way to get him on campus early.

  • ratman

    He looks like a good one. He will be in the mix next year.

  • Daryl

    Lots of talk about Byrd, and Parker. What does this mean for Hayes? I thought overall he had a good year not great but good. His Sugar Bowl I felt was not good at all. Is he a guy you feel is going to get passed by or will all three of these guys play?

    • Jordan Esco

      As a senior, Hayes isn’t going anywhere, IMO. I know I’ve read a lot of OU fans wish otherwise, but I think Mike will rely on him as really the lone veteran he has this year in that back four (aside from J.Wilson). And everyone seems to have forgotten about Ahmad Thomas, who I think will see plenty of time in 2014 as well.

      • Sooner Ray

        Think Thomas shows up in the back four or more as a linebacker?

        • Daryl

          I think if there going to move a safety to LB it would be Byrd more than Thomas. Byrd looks like a guy that could add 25 pounds and still be really athletic for LB

          • Shifty

            Thomas already weighs as much as Alexander…pretty much the same size height wise as well…Byrd has better hips and coverage ability..Thomas is a hitter

        • Jordan Esco

          There have been rumors about that being a possibility, Ray. Hoping some of the FB guys can find out if it’s just that, a rumor, once practices get going.

  • J.K. Abbott

    Ace you make an astute observation about Stevie’s habit of getting over extended at times at collision. He got himselve in a bind once in the Sempi Fi game when he got overextended. This kid is “special”. Play maker delux.

  • wolfbuilder

    Not sure if he would really be able to come in and start from day one at FS, now with a little time I think he could be the guy at FS, maybe by the TCU game.

    Byrd is good but no way QH gets passed IMO, QH just got burned bad on that one deep pass he played solid in that game for the most part and really had a good year as a first year starter and he will only be better this year

    • Jordan Esco

      Unless he’s just out of this world in the summer, he won’t start from Day 1. But he’s going to play. Just don’t see the coaches redshirting him.

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

      I agree, I think Hayes is a very good safety and a reliable one. He plays a very consistent brand of football which is one of the highest qualities when evaluating a safety. I believe QH will without a doubt be the starter, he is just so solid in every facet of the game but Parker is a guy they will want to get on the field, even if it is in Nickel situations. Special teams have also become a huge priority for Stoops and the culmination of his play making, versatility, and ST he will be too important to RS.

      • Mark hale

        Bottom line, both Bob and Mike look to get their best 11 football players on the field for both offense and defense. Mike seems to find his 11 best defenders and then he’ tweeks’ his schemes to match his talent. Mike’s schemes have to have flexibility, (especially playing against spread offensive teams who don’t substitute). An athletic group of players may be at a disadvantage when power running teams run straight at OU’s defense. Still, talented and flexible players are reinventing NCAA football to some extent. “Speed and quickness, still kills”.

      • wolfbuilder

        For now I think that parker is the nickel or dime at best, could see Wilson making the move to FS just as Lynn did.

        this y I love the spring so much cause the coachs always shift a few players here or there and make All Americans out of someone

  • Steve Johns

    Barring a rash of injuries, I see Stevie making is bones on special teams this year. He’s gonna be a good one but there’s a lot of depth at FS.

  • Adrian

    Ahmad Thomas, Hatari Byrd starters with Steven Parker and Quentin Hayes as 2nd string. Julian Wilson at Nickle
    Zach Sanchez and Cortez Johnson (senior and we need that size) with Stanvon Taylor and Dakota Austin 2nd string
    Dline- Grissom, Phillips, Tapper…2nd: Dimon, Wade, Walker

    • Daryl

      Isn’t Walker a DT? Or have they moved him to DE? All that to say if Walker is DT he moves ahead of Wade and Dimon and Ward on the edges. Also is there any word on how Phillips is recovering? Back injuries terrify me with trench players. I hope he can get back to where he was.

      • Adrian

        1) Yes he is but with a three man front and with his speed and first step, why not put that size on the outside slanting in?
        2)It’s a good issue but we will just have a deep rotation of players, but Tapper will probably get the bulk. I do think Grissom is going to be more of a pass rusher than run stopper (why he is losing weight and getting quicker off the line)
        3) Last I heard he was doing well, should be ready to practice next week but I don’t know how hard they will let him go yet.

      • J.K. Abbott

        4i’s and 0 technique being OU;s base alignment. In other words Geno and Tap played the 4i;s and Phillips / Wade the 0. Walker is a 4i. B gap players. Depending on down and distance in definite passing situations Coach Mike will line Tap and Geno or whoever is in up in the 5 technique or where you would most likely think a DE would line up at. 5 tech being a C gap player or outside eye of OT.

        • Doobie74OU

          Yeah I think on Early downs you will see Walker outside helping hold the edge with his size. But on obvious passing downs I think they will slide him inside. Having Grissom, Walker, Tapper on the line with Stricker and maybe Bond at the OLB spots it will be “Katie Bar the Door” and very hard to slow down our pass rush! If Mike Stoops gets consistent pressure with 4 or 5 guys his defense will be AMAZING! in my humble opinion.

      • J.K. Abbott

        Here is a good look at a base 3/4. Notice the two DE’s alignment. Generally 4i’s (B Gap player) with OLB being edge players. I know the DE up top looks looser then a 4i but he is a B gap player at this point with that OLBer sitting outside of him. with the two wr up top the Ollie to that side widens. where the bottom Ollie plays tighter. KEEP IN MIND OU STILL PLAYS THE FOUR AND THAT IS WHEN YOU SEE THE TRADIONAL DT WITH THE DE’s. They bring in the nickel versus a one back sets, passing downs etc.. That’s where you see a ton of Wilson on the field. Against heavy sets (Pro I) they used #40 Lindley a bunch and played him in a 9 on the TE and Striker outside on the OT of the weak side. A 50 look. . IN THIS SET WALKER WOULD PLAY THE 4i. They have also in 3rd and forever downs screwed down Tap and brought in an extra DE and played with better pass rushers.

        http://cdn0.sbnation.com/assets/4002093/3-4.png

        • J.K. Abbott

          One thing is for sure it’s very multiple. They can adjust to a 40, 3/3 odd stack/ 4/2/5 blah blah balh based on opponents sets, personnel packages, down and distances etc.

          • Don Mitchell

            Job hunting are ya, youre hired

          • J.K. Abbott

            Ha Ha Don. Just having fun. Miss the days at the bar stools talking ball and drawing up plays on beer napkins.

        • Super Keith

          You bring up a great point J.K., it’s not as simple as sticking a DE/DT/DE on the field and calling it a 3 man front. There are players on this roster for every scenario, and that will make a difference as to who we’ll see (whether a heavy set, 3 with a 4i, or even a straight 4)…I doubt Walker beats out Phillips or Wade early, but he could be plugged in (as you said) in a 50 look, or goalline stack. Good stuff brother!

      • J.K. Abbott

        Michigan runs a ton of 3/4. Here is another look at the base 3/4 w/o a traditional DT or the DE’s playing 4i’s. The DT’s can play 4i’s also. I seen DC’s call their 4i’s DT’s instead of DE’s.
        http://mgoblog.com/sites/mgoblog.com/files/form-3-4_thumb.jpg

      • J.K. Abbott

        Here Michigan is getting a TE up top. OU against Bama brought # 40 Lindley in and played him up top on the TE although his alignment was more parrallel to the LOS and STRIKER played on the open (OT side) bottom. STRIKER roasted Bama’s all world OT when they got this set and alignment.
        http://mgoblog.com/sites/mgoblog.com/files/eightmanfront_thumb.jpg

        • Alex_K

          Noticed it all year that teams were allowing Striker to attack the outside shoulder of OT’s play in and play out without using a TE line up directly over top of him or even using a FB/RB to give help or chip block.
          I don’t see how you prepare for OU for a week or sometimes 2 weeks and not see that you should be doing one of the two I mentioned to Striker every play. Take for instance the 3rd play of the game against Notre Dame. Striker had a free run to the QB and it immediately put them down 7-0.

          • Super Keith

            Alex, that became a glaring issue right about the time we played KSU. However, I don’t think Grissom get’s enough credit here. The spread teams we’ll see this year will have to make a choice (pick your poison); either leave someone in to account for Striker, or take your chances that you can get a short drop and your O-line can hold (what basically amounts to a 4 man rush). I say Grissom doesn’t get enough credit because he keeps the opposite end nailed down, and makes it hard for the offense to account all the way across. With a full returning line, there will be some offensive coordinators in the Big XII with sleepless nights this year.

          • Sooner Ray

            Alex, It’s like Super said, pick your poison. The offense starts out short a blocker because someone has the ball. If you use two players to control one, it’s then a two man advantage for the D. Also when you have to double team you leave yourself wide open for blitzes through the vacated spot. This is why a dominating D lineman can make your D look very good.

      • J.K. Abbott

        see it’s not that they moved him. But in a base 3/4 I assume Walker would play the DE in this look. Phillips and wade the o or nose.
        http://static.nfl.com/static/content/catch_all/nfl_image/Diagram2.jpg?01AD=3khGLX5SQpknOnbvIGMxe5vCdotZ5uq4U1vrNN0g6wtAkeUefPUHrYw&01RI=DE636EDBC640C67&01NA=

    • SoonerPhins

      Im pretty sure Hayes will start.

      • Adrian

        Maybe but I hope your wrong. (no disrespect) I usually watch linebackers and D-line so if a safety’s issues stick out to me, I think it’s a problem. I was always taught (I played D-line) that if the safeties were getting tackles, then I have failed at my job, the safeties should be invisible until deep throws. Hayes just wasn’t aggressive, couldn’t shed blocks, man coverage was bad (see Kansas State) I just wasn’t impressed but maybe he will come out with something to prove like Gabe Lynn did.

        • J.K. Abbott

          with all do respect there are coverages that OU uses that the safeties are alley players ie. run support. Using cover one as an example because ACE mentioned OU running more cover 1 with Stevie Parker. In the diagram its man free or cover 1.. The free safety is reading QB. If the backs clear the QB w/o ball, drop back , pass the free is playing center field. But if he reads run he filling the alley in a freaking hurry like a heat seeking missle. He’s the bowling ball and the RB is the pin.

          http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/835338/8.png

          • Adrian

            I understand defensive schemes..I just think Ahmad would be a better fit. Even as an alley player you can’t just get washed out of the picture, that’s how big runs get popped off when you can’t fill your run fits properly or diagnose plays. I don’t think Quentin is the greatest in his run D, he is good in a zone pass D because it allows more time to adjust. IMO

        • J.K. Abbott

          Also Pete Carroll runs a Hybird cover 3 at Seattle with ultra agressive safeties and corners. The strong safety is a run stopper obviously but in his three deep scheme his free even plays the run / alley versus the tradional bailing out free safty in a deep thirds look. Carrolls defensive system is awesome. Of course his strong and free safeties Kam Chancellor SS and Earl Thomas are some bad mother &^*()@$. His corners play press as long as the outside wr is going vertical, if he breaks inside he has deep thirds like the tradional cover three. It’s a agressive three deep zone with press corners to take away the dink and dunk and allows the safeties in run support.

          • Adrian

            I get that and I don’t think Quentin is bad I just don’t think he is aggressive.

        • OU_Sooners

          don’t discount seniority. Hayes can find the ball, this is why he started over the young guys. If the race for safety was remotely close with Hatari & Quentin, you’d always go with the older guy. Byrd can stop the run, Hayes can play in Cover 3.

        • Super Keith

          Adrian, I’m the chairman of the Ahmad Thomas over Hayes fan club, and even though I get a little irritated with Hayes from time to time, he’s still the best option at his position. He’s a much smarter player than a lot of fans realize, and his experience can’t be matched on the roster (at safety). Thomas will get some time this year, but I don’t think he will unseat a two-year senior starter.

          • Adrian

            Good point the coaches do like the veterans on the field and like I said, maybe he really steps it up this year which I would like but teams will try to find our weakness and exploit it and I don’t want a good safety when IMO we have great ones

  • Jordan Esco

    I’ll just put there here. Not like we didn’t already know, but this pretty much makes it official.

    https://twitter.com/LJBouncyMoore/status/439442069786882048

    • Leroy Jenkins

      Wish him the best of luck. Maybe he could transfer to Fresno State?

      • Doobie74OU

        That would be fair we got Jalen Saunders in a transfer from them so maybe LJ Moore goes back that way and repays the favor!

        • Leroy Jenkins

          Sounds like a great trade to me. I do think LJ will be a solid player if he decides to play football again, though.

    • Doobie74OU

      Hope he can find what he is looking for! Sorry it wasn’t at OU but if he wasn’t happy and 100% focused onbeing here it was going to be real hard to find playing time in what is becoming a crowded secondary. He has a lot of talent but its hard to be at your best when your not happy. I WISH HIM WELL! BOOMER!

    • Sooner Ray

      Haven’t heard if he just gave up at OU or if he’s giving up football but if he want’s to play, I hope he finds a place where he can step in and contribute.

  • Leroy Jenkins

    Really excited about Parker. I know everyone in OU Nation had immense satisfaction in knowing Sumlin can’t steal our in-state recruits. Sumlin sells gimmicks like the “Swagcopter”; OU sells consistency, tradition, & championships. Enough said.

  • OU_Sooners

    all in all, I’m very excited for OUs defense for this fall and the next. I’m curious to see how the offense will shake out, though. I trust the run game will be great but I’m wanting to see one of the following guys really come on: T. McNamara, I. Ijalana, D. Cavil, D. Woods, D. Neal, Any of the new WRs (huge dudes), and especially Michaiah Quick. Definitely feel like Quick can work the slot like Saunders/Broyles. Apparently Austin Bennett, KJ Young, & Smallwood are also guys to pay attention to. Lots of good stuff coming, guys!

    • OU_Sooners

      also, ignore the close-word repetition usage of “guys.”….. guys.

  • Boomer4life

    Football can’t get here soon enough! Waiting for the Spring Game teaser!

    • Sooner Ray

      I vote we just skip summer! who needs it?

      • Boomer4life

        I second that!

  • John Garner

    Just want to thank everyone for the discussion of the 3-4 defense.I learn a lot of football here and I’m loving it. Truly awesome. Thanks.

  • Super Keith

    Every once in awhile, you see a kid come along (out of high school) that just seems to “get it”. Steven Parker is one of those guys.

    I’ve watch defensive back recruiting closely for over a decade, and rarely (if ever) have I seen a kid as flexible as Parker. I don’t think people fully appreciate how rare it is for a high school safety to be so balanced. Parker isn’t going to blow anyone up as a freshman (he’s not a big hitter), but don’t let that fool you…this kid will be the kind of player that forced offensive coordinators to plan around him. He’s that good.

    • Sooner Ray

      I agree Keith, the only thing I have seen missing from his game is that slobber knocking hit. You can’t say that he doesn’t get there though, not many plays get by him.

      • Super Keith

        It’s funny Ray, the very first time I saw his highlights, I was so busy looking for that big hit that I missed everything else. I guess we’re sorta conditioned to look for that in safeties these days. Anyway, after I went back and re-watched his film (then followed him for the next year), I realized just how gifted he is, and how good he can become. You’re 100% correct, he may not knock the ballcarrier’s head off, but he’ll be there to make contact. It’s not often you see a high school kid instinctively take the angles to make a play like Parker does/will.

        • Sooner Ray

          The crazy thing is, I actually watched him in person and when I looked at film on him I had to make sure I was watching the right kid. The film just didn’t show how fast he can actually get from one part of the field to the other. Maybe it’s just me but he’s one of those players you just have to see to believe. I’ve pumped him up for so long, now I just hope he can make the D1 adjustment the way I believe he can.