- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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In one of the biggest coups of its 2015 recruiting class, Oklahoma went down to Waco and plucked four-star safety Kahlil Haughton away from Baylor. Now, the Sooners are hoping Haughton will be able to help them slow the Bears in the coming years.
As part of our Big 12 signee Q&A summer series, Haughton spoke with ESPN.com about picking Oklahoma over Baylor, his impressions of new Sooner defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks and what the Oklahoma secondary needs to do to bounce back this season:
You had several big-name schools pursuing you. What stood out about Oklahoma?
Haughton: It all started on the first day I stepped on campus. The vibe I got, it was actually a place I could see myself being. I liked the coaches, I thought they were great people. They've put a lot of talent in the league. They haven't had the most success as far as win percentage, but I feel like the way Bob Stoops has run his program, I know they can get back to the top and that's something I would love to be a part of. Just the way he runs the program, I felt comfortable with Oklahoma.
You're a Waco kid, who went to the same high school as former Baylor All-American safety Ahmad Dixon. How difficult was it to pick OU over Baylor?
Haughton: It was actually pretty difficult. The pressure of being one of Midway's safeties, a Midway player, and not going to Baylor, it's something that's kind of unthought of when you're here. At the end of the day, though, it was my decision. I was OK with not going to Baylor. So that's how it worked out. But there was definitely a lot of pressure.
For most Oklahoma players, the big game is Texas. Will Baylor be even bigger for you?
Haughton: Yeah, it's going to be a little overwhelming. But I'm definitely excited for that game. Obviously not a lot of people there will like me. But I'm excited for it and it should be a lot of fun.
When you committed, Mike Stoops was the secondary coach. Now it's Kerry Cooks. What are your thoughts on him ?
Haughton: Coach Cooks is a cool guy. He was actually recruiting from Notre Dame. It's actually kind of ironic he ended up being our secondary coach. The things I've heard, he's definitely a great guy and I'm excited to play for him and work with him.
What have been your impressions of the Stoops brothers?
Haughton: Mike is definitely a guy who is one of those coaches that will get on to you real quick. He's really strict and everything. But that's what you need. You need a coach that's physically, mentally going to put you in the right place. That's what he brings as a coach. Bob, he's been there a long time. He knows about everything, the ins and outs of the business. He definitely knows what it takes for you to be successful.
What has Oklahoma told you about a possible role this season?
Haughton: They definitely told me there's a chance I could come in and play a lot. Just because, I guess, the lack of the depth that they have. And so, they're thinking I could be one of those guys, if I go in there and take care of my business and stay in the film room, that I could contribute pretty early.
You committed to the Sooners back in early September, when they were considered a legitimate national title contender. How difficult was it watching them struggle the rest of the season?
Haughton: It was actually pretty hard, just watching them not do so well. You're kinda like, 'Oh man, do I really want to go here?' You don't know what to expect from their seasons in the future. I definitely think there's a chance, though, that coach Stoops could take them back to the top, given what he's achieved throughout his career as a coach.
So you wavered in your commitment?
Haughton: I was thinking closer to signing day, I was second-guessing myself. But I just believed in what coach Stoops and them had to offer and their vision.
The Sooners had one of the worst pass defenses in the Big 12 last season. Where do you think it went wrong for them?
Haughton: I think the biggest thing is leadership and just your team chemistry. Team chemistry, you definitely need that to be able to communicate and be on the same page. I think that's something they had a lot of issues with last year, where they had a lot of busted coverages. We just have to come in and do our part as freshmen and build that team chemistry up so we can be one of those solid defenses.
What is key to Oklahoma to getting back as the dominant team in the Big 12?
Haughton: I think they just need determination. The program isn't as confident as they used to be. They need to get that confidence back up and just try and do what they used to do.