Dallas Colleges: Demontre Hurst

Sooners' top 10 hidden gems: No. 9

April, 29, 2014
4/29/14
11:00
AM CT
The spring evaluation period is upon us.

Oklahoma has made a living out of evaluating and developing well, helping the Sooners go 51-15 during their past five seasons, including four straight seasons with double-digit wins. During Bob Stoops' tenure, the Sooners have been able to consistently compete for championships thanks in part to their ability to land hidden gems such as Aaron Colvin and Dominique Alexander. Over the next two weeks we’ll count down the Top 10 hidden gems of the past five years at Oklahoma. Today we look at No. 9.

[+] EnlargeDemontre Hurst
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsFormer Oklahoma cornerback Demontre Hurst was a three-year starter for the Sooners.
No. 9 Demontre Hurst, cornerback, Class of 2009

Recruiting rank: 75 (out of 100) ESPN.com scout rating, No. 58 cornerback, No. 256 in the Midlands region

What we said: “Hurst is a well-rounded cornerback prospect with good skills as a both a run and pass supporter. He possesses adequate size with his taller, rangy frame, but lacks great bulk to match up vs. today's bigger college receivers. Good defensive back prospect in the right system.” — ESPN.com recruiting analyst

Other reported offers: Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Michigan, Miami (Fla.), Wisconsin

Career production: He started 40 of 53 career games, finishing with 178 tackles, 33 pass breakups and two interceptions in his career. ... In 2012, he had a career-high 59 tackles while starting all 13 games as a senior. ... In 2011, Hurst had 55 tackles and a career-high two fumble recoveries as a junior. … In 2010, he had 50 tackles and a career-high three forced fumbles in 14 games. ... In 2009, Hurst played his way out of a redshirt season to record 14 tackles and one sack in spot duty.

Why Hurst is No. 9: Hurst was exceptionally productive and durable, starting every game during his final three years after seeing limited action as a freshman. He wasn’t the biggest or most physical corner on the roster, nor did he make game-changing interceptions. But Hurst was incredibly consistent and the coaches could count on him to show up, play hard and do his job every Saturday, an underrated trait in college football. His competitive nature consistently showed against some of the best receivers that college football had to offer during his Sooners’ career.

Gabe Lynn stepped on campus has the highly regarded defensive back in OU’s 2009 class, but Hurst immediately separated himself as a impact freshman, then locked down a spot in the secondary for three seasons. The Sooners signed six ESPN 300 prospects in that class, but none were as durable and productive as Hurst.

The rest of the list:

No. 10: Guard Tyler Evans

Oklahoma Sooners spring wrap

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
9:48
AM CT
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

2012 record: 10-3

2012 conference record: 8-1 (tied for first, Big 12)

Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 4; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

RB Damien Williams, FB Trey Millard, WR Jalen Saunders, WR Sterling Shepard, C Gabe Ikard, DE/DT Chuka Ndulue, LB Corey Nelson, CB Aaron Colvin

Key losses

QB Landry Jones, WR Justin Brown, WR Kenny Stills, OT Lane Johnson, DE David King, CB Demontre Hurst, FS Tony Jefferson, SS Javon Harris

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Damien Williams* (946 yards)
Passing: Landry Jones (4,267yards)
Receiving: Kenny Stills (959 yards)
Tackles: Tony Jefferson (119)
Sacks: Chuka Ndulue* (5)
Interceptions: Javon Harris (6)

Spring answers

1. Playmakers abound: The Sooners might have lost leading receivers Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, but there’s plenty of firepower back to support whoever wins the starting quarterback job. Jalen Saunders was actually Oklahoma’s most efficient receiver the second half of last season and seems primed to take over as the go-to target. The Sooners also have several talented up-and-coming receivers who had good springs, led by slot extraordinaire Sterling Shepard. The backfield is even deeper, with leading rushers Damien Williams and Brennan Clay back, to go along with Trey Millard, one of the top all-around fullbacks in the country.

2. Cortez will flank Colvin: The secondary was decimated by graduation and Tony Jefferson’s early entry into the NFL draft. One of those voids was cornerback, where Demontre Hurst had started the previous years. That void at least, however, appears to have been filled. Arizona transfer Cortez Johnson seized the job from the first day of spring drills, and has given the Sooners every indication to believe they’ll have a big, physical corner to pair with All-American candidate Aaron Colvin in the fall.

3. The linebackers will play: In a desperate move to slow down the high-powered passing attacks of the Big 12, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops pulled his linebackers off the field. The plan backfired, as opposing offenses ran at will over the linebacker-less Sooners. This spring, Stoops has renewed his commitment to the linebacker, which, ironically, could be the strength of the defense. Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin are all athletic and capable of generating negative plays, something Oklahoma’s defense sorely lacked last season.

Fall questions

1. Who the QB will be in October: Bob Stoops said he would wait until the fall before naming a starter, and so far, he’s made good on his word. Junior Blake Bell took a lead in the competition during the spring, as expected. But sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, who both got equal reps as Bell, played well at times, too. It’s hard to see Bell not starting the first game. But if he struggles against a tough September schedule, it’s not unthinkable one of the younger QBs would be given a shot.

2. How the new offense will fare: Looking to utilize the skill sets of their mobile quarterbacks, the Sooners will be running a very different offense from the one Sam Bradford and Landry Jones both operated. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel kept most of these new plays - including loads of read option -- in his hip pocket during the spring game. But it will be interesting to see how the Sooners -- and just as important, opposing defenses -- adjust to this new era of offense in Norman.

3. Defensive line play: The Sooners went into spring ball with just three defensive tackles on the roster, and little experience at defensive end. The unit showed strides during the spring, with Chuka Ndulue making a smooth transition from end to tackle, and tackle Jordan Phillips coming up big in the spring game. But that was the spring. The defensive line will have to continue to grow rapidly in the fall for the Sooners to have any hope of improving from last year defensively.

Sooners losing the most talent in Big 12?

January, 23, 2013
1/23/13
11:36
AM CT
Colleague Travis Haney took a look at the 10 teams who will lose the most talent in the country from 2012 to 2013.

There's only one Big 12 team on his list, and it's the 2012 preseason favorite: Oklahoma, which is sitting at No. 3 on a list you probably don't want to see your team on.

Landry Jones is the biggest name gone, but Haney says this might be Bob Stoops' biggest rebuild project ever in more than a decade in Norman.

The team's three most talented players -- Jones, receiver Kenny Stills and safety Tony Jefferson -- are the biggest losses, but don't overlook guys like tackle Lane Johnson and defensive linemen David King and Jamarkus McFarland. Defensive backs Demontre Hurst and Javon Harris won't be easy to replace, either.

Oklahoma was fortunate to keep cornerback Aaron Colvin and do-everything offensive Swiss army knife Trey Millard, who I'd expect to get a whole lot more touches next season. He was criminally underused in the Sooners' offense this past season. Just ask Texas if Millard should get more touches.

Oklahoma's offensive renaissance should be interesting. There won't be major changes, but Stoops is always going to build around what his personnel does best, and next season, likely with Blake Bell at the helm, you can expect the quarterback running game to be featured. It's still likely going to be a pass-first offense, but with Millard and Bell, next season's team might be a little more physical between the tackles.

I'd agree with Haney in that the top of the Big 12 looks really weak for 2013, which may provide opportunity for the Sooners to make a Big 12 title run, despite all the losses.

Big 12 sends eight to East-West Shrine game

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
2:54
PM CT
The Big 12 will have eight players competing in the annual East-West Shrine game, one of a handful of games that serve as showcases for NFL scouts. Here they are:
Klein, of course, made waves when reports leaked that the Senior Bowl wouldn't be inviting him, but he'll get an opportunity to get in front of scouts at the Shrine Game, which takes place on Jan. 19 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

It'll be interesting to see what positions he gets work with, too.

We'll see what Doege can do for his NFL stock as well. More Big 12 players could be invited. We'll keep you posted.

Sooners reboot project in 2013 gets tougher

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
2:00
PM CT
Oklahoma saw the Landry Jones Era end in unspectacular fashion on Friday night, with a 41-13 loss to ex-Big 12 rival Texas A&M. Jones is done, and the defense showed it needed some work under Mike Stoops for 2013, but that job just got a little bit tougher.

Colleague Joe Schad cited a source who told him safety Tony Jefferson and receiver Kenny Stills would be leaving early to enter the NFL draft.

Jones is obviously the Sooners' biggest loss, but Jefferson's one of the defense's most talented members, and cornerback Aaron Colvin still has a draft decision to make. The transition to Jones' successor (Blake Bell, Drew Allen or scout team standout Trevor Knight?) gets a little rougher without an experienced receiver like Stills to smooth it over, too.

Oklahoma, though, will have a very tall order to try and restore a defense that struggled down the stretch after giving up 49 points to West Virginia and 48 to Oklahoma State, which was playing Clint Chelf, who began the season as the team's No. 3 quarterback.

Defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland, Stacy McGee and Casey Walker are all gone, as is star defensive end David King. Safety Javon Harris, the Sooners' biggest standout in the Cotton Bowl loss, ended his career on Friday, as did cornerback Demontre Hurst.

Point is, if Oklahoma's going to fix its defense, it will have to do so without experience. That's difficult in any league, but especially so in the Big 12, where the only thing faster than the receivers is the rate at which offenses evolve and become more difficult to stop.

Expect the Sooners' spring depth chart to look a little crazy and be very fluid throughout spring practice, but without Jefferson and Stills, both sides of the ball will be moving on to 2013 without their most talented pieces.

ESPN.com's preseason All-Big 12 team

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
9:00
AM CT
The season is only a few days away, and it's time to unveil our official All-Big 12 team.

The criteria for this is pretty simple: I picked the best players at every position in the game, but made room for deserving players. For this league, that meant eliminating the tight end spot and sliding a more deserving Collin Klein onto the team via an all-purpose position.

The quarterbacks are solid in this league, but I'd call the cornerbacks the best and deepest position in the league. The worst? Defensive tackle. I didn't put a single one on the All-Big 12 team, electing to name four defensive ends along the defensive line. I hate doing that, but this year, it's necessary.

Without further ado, here's our team:

OFFENSE

QB: Geno Smith, West Virginia
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: Waymon James, TCU
All-Purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Mason Walters, Texas

DEFENSE

DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS:

K: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention/regrettable snubs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas; Ivory Wade, C, Baylor; LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech; Blaize Foltz, OL, TCU; Kenny Cain, LB, TCU; Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State; Jamarkus McFarland, DL, Oklahoma; Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas; Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State; Demontre Hurst, CB, Oklahoma; Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State

Who will be biggest Big 12 disappointment?

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
1:50
PM CT


Monday, we looked at the Big 12 team most likely to surprise, but what about the other side of the coin?

Who's most likely to underachieve? Let's ask the people.

Here are my five candidates:

OKLAHOMA

SportsNation

Who will be the Big 12's biggest disappointment?

  •  
    22%
  •  
    13%
  •  
    16%
  •  
    17%
  •  
    32%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,711)

Oklahoma's had the most troublesome preseason camp of anyone in the league, suffering big losses on the offensive line and suspending starting defensive end David King. The Sooners bring back defensive playmakers in Tony Jefferson and Demontre Hurst, as well as quarterback Landry Jones, but Jones is dealing with a lot of new faces in the receiving corps. The Sooners seem to have at least one annual head-scratching loss. Will the Sooners disappoint and fail to win 10 games, despite starting the season in the top five?

KANSAS STATE

Can Kansas State truly disappoint if no one expects the Wildcats to succeed? The Big 12's second-place team a season ago returns its core, but finds itself outside the preseason top 20 and picked to finish sixth in the Big 12. Kansas State has the potential to win the conference, but will the SnyderCats regress after some magic in 2011? That means a 6-7-win season in Manhattan.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Hopes are high for Oklahoma State, despite the loss of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. The biggest reason? The Cowboys' Air Raid offense and a defense that returns lots of big talents, headlined by cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown, as well as linebacker Shaun Lewis. But do you believe enough receivers will emerge, and that true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt can handle his first year of major college football? Or will OSU slide down the Big 12 standings and win 6-7 games after winning the Big 12 last season?

TCU

TCU is joining the Big 12 and looks like it has the offense to compete, but do the Horned Frogs have enough defense? Offseason departures for drug arrests and academics have the Frogs razor thin at linebacker, and last season was disappointing for a secondary that has had big expectations the past few years. Disappointment for the Horned Frogs, picked in the preseason's top 15, would mean about six wins.

WEST VIRGINIA

The Mountaineers have the league's biggest headliners on offense in quarterback Geno Smith, and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. The Mountaineers are buzzing around the top 10 to start the season, but their 70-point outburst in the Orange Bowl has diverted attention from losses along their front seven and some ugly games last season, including defeats against Syracuse and Louisville, and poor performances against Pitt and South Florida. Will West Virginia fail to contend for a league title, falling to a 7-8 win season?

There's also the option of Texas and Baylor, but we can only have five teams in the poll results. Would you pick someone else who isn't on our poll as the most likely Big 12 team to disappoint?

Oklahoma football storylines to watch

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
3:52
PM CT


As Oklahoma kicks off football practice this week, here are five storylines to watch this preseason:

1. How does Whaley look in pads?

The injury to Ryan Broyles overshadowed the impact of the loss of Dominique Whaley, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury midway through the 2012 season. Whaley has been cleared to practice, but even Bob Stoops admitted the Sooners won’t know how Whaley will handle cutting and contact until the team practices in pads. The Sooners have other options at running back, but Whaley is the most proven of any of them.

2. How will the offensive adjust to life without Habern?

[+] EnlargeTrey Metoyer
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireFreshman receiver Trey Metoyer is already penciled in as an opening-day starter for the Sooners.
Stoops said this week that the offensive line will be ready to deal with the loss of center Ben Habern, who has given up football because of issues with his neck and back. The Sooners made a seamless transition for six games without Habern last season, sliding Gabe Ikard to center, and inserting Adam Shead in at guard. The Sooners shouldn’t miss much of a beat without Habern, but the line is a lot thinner than it was a week ago. Others like guard Bronson Irwin must step up.

3. Does Trey Metoyer build off his spring?

Other than Landry Jones, Metoyer was OU’s best offensive playmaker of the spring. Can the freshman phenom keep it going? By all accounts, Metoyer has busted it over the summer. So there’s little reason to doubt he won’t lock down a starting job before September.

4. Which other newcomer receivers will emerge?

With Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks expected to serve long suspensions, and Kameel Jackson still working on academics, OU will need wideouts other than Metoyer to emerge. Durron Neal has been slowed by a knee injury this summer, LaColtan Bester just got to campus and Courtney Gardner was unable to qualify. That leaves freshman slot receiver Sterling Shepard as the most likely to step into a prominent role. Shepard has wowed his teammates with his work ethic this summer.

5. Will the secondary regain some of its swagger?

The confidence of the defensive backfield was shaken the second half of the season following porous performances against Texas Tech and Baylor. The group even dropped its “Sharks” nickname. But the return of Mike Stoops has the secondary primed for a bounce-back season. A change of scenery could do wonders for Javon Harris and Gabe Lynn, who both figure to open the season in the starting lineup. If they hold up, the secondary could be awesome, with stars Tony Jefferson, Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst manning the rest of the unit.
The Nagurski Trophy, given annually to college football's best defender, has released its 84-man, preseason watch list. From the Big 12:
That's a hefty list. My only possible additions? Quandre Diggs of Texas and maybe Shaun Lewis of Oklahoma State. Other than that, it's basically a who's who of the best defenders in the Big 12.

The league's 13 candidates are third-most among conferences, behind only the SEC (19) and the Big Ten (14).

Texas and Oklahoma are tied for the nation's most Nagurski Trophies, with two. Brian Orakpo in 2008 and Ndamukong Suh in 2009 are the last Big 12 talents to take home the hardware.

Luke Kuechly of Boston College won the award last season.

More awards watch lists:

Bednarik Award tabs 11 from Big 12

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
9:15
AM CT
The Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive player, has released its preseason watch list complete with 11 Big 12 players up for the award. Here's the list, in alphabetical order:
That's a pretty good list. The biggest snubs in my book are all cornerbacks. Where is Texas' duo of Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs? And what about Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert. All deserving.

Last season, Tyrann Mathieu became the second consecutive LSU player to win the award, following up Patrick Peterson in 2010.

Ndamukong Suh (2009) was the last Big 12 player to win the award. Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma (2003) was the last player among current Big 12 teams to take home the trophy.

Assessing the contenders: Oklahoma

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
10:30
AM CT
To begin the season, I see six teams with a legitimate chance to win the Big 12. Today begins a series looking at why each team will or will not win the league. We'll start with the prohibitive favorite, Oklahoma.

Why the Sooners will win the Big 12

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireLandry Jones gives Oklahoma experience at quarterback, but he'll be throwing to several untested targets this season.
1. They've been there before: Never, ever underestimate the importance of experience. Oklahoma lost a lot from last season's team, but it still boasts essentially a four-year starter at quarterback in Landry Jones, receiver Kenny Stills, and defenders like Tony Jefferson, Tom Wort, and Demontre Hurst. They were all key cogs in a 2010 title run that included a gutsy comeback on a neutral site against a very good Nebraska team. Oklahoma has a lot on its to-do list, but outside of a trip to West Virginia, the Sooners won't encounter anything too foreign this season.

2. Its secondary is fierce, and revitalized: Texas probably has the league's best overall secondary, but Oklahoma's not far behind. Cornerbacks Hurst and Aaron Colvin are solid, and safety Tony Jefferson might, by the end of the season, have a case for being the league's best overall defender after moving back to safety from nickel back. Fellow safety Javon Harris re-emerged this spring after a midseason benching, but still must prove he can prevent the big play in the fall. The best news of all for the unit? Coordinator Mike Stoops is back in Norman coaching them after nearly a decade as the Arizona head coach.

3. Oklahoma has more talent than anyone else: This one's pretty simple. If you line up every team in the league, truly examining everybody's two-deep, Oklahoma stands tall as the league's best team, especially at important positions like quarterback and the secondary. There are some questions along the defensive line, but the Sooners have solid athletes with potential. The same is true of the receivers, and running back will be a strength, even if Dominique Whaley isn't 100 percent next season. The linebackers are loaded again, and so is the offensive line, which might be the most important aspect of this year's team. If these games were played on paper, Oklahoma would be the champs.

Why the Sooners won't win the Big 12

1. Does Landry Jones have enough help? Ryan Broyles is gone, and Oklahoma's passing game seemed to self-destruct when he was gone. There's a lot of talent back, but offseason suspensions mean Stills will be flanked by a horde of freshmen targets. Can Trey Metoyer, Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Courtney Gardner be enough? And can Jones string together enough solid games to lead Oklahoma to a Big 12 title? The solid offensive line gives some reason to believe he will.

2. There won't be enough pass rush: Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander were an absolute terror last season, even though both were plagued by injuries, and Lewis' season shut down early. Now, they must be replaced. R.J. Washington and David King have plenty of potential, but Lewis and Alexander were mostly experienced, known entities. Washington and King have never been relied on as heavily as they will be this season. Can they handle the load? Oklahoma's Big 12 title hopes -- and defensive passing statistics -- probably depend on it.

3. The pool of Big 12 title suitors is too deep: Oklahoma's the best team on paper, sure, but the Big 12 is going to be brutal, and wide open. Nine (maybe 10) teams could legitimately beat the Sooners. That's just one game. Five others (we'll get to them later in the series) have the chance to prove they're better than the Sooners over the course of a 12-game schedule. Will they do it? Ultimately, that might be up to the Sooners.

Under the radar: Oklahoma Sooners

June, 20, 2012
6/20/12
12:45
PM CT
Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 team who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar.

Next up: the Oklahoma Sooners.

Under the radar: CB Demontre Hurst

Sooners fans know Hurst well after he burst on the scene during spot duty in his freshman year in 2009. The rest of the league, though? Most are painfully in the dark on what Hurst has to offer.

Other corners like Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs at Texas, Brodrick Brown at Oklahoma State and Nigel Malone at Kansas State get a whole lot more press, but Hurst very well could prove he's better than all of them during his senior campaign in 2012.

Jamell Fleming took his talents to the NFL, but Hurst will be the team's top cornerback, with loads of experience to pass down to the team's younger players.

Hurst led the Sooners with 11 pass breakups last season, but earned just second-team All-Big 12 honors, his first appearance on the All-Big 12 squad. He returned his only interception of the season for a touchdown against Texas, but also recovered two fumbles. Hurst has all the pieces to be a shutdown corner in this league, and spent two seasons going head to head in practice against Ryan Broyles, one of the toughest players to cover in the history of the Big 12. He'll be teaching the Sooners' receivers a thing or two this summer and in fall camp, but Hurst is fast, and he's shown the instincts necessary to be a star since he stepped on campus. The Lancaster, Texas, native is under the radar a bit for now, but that'll change quickly for fans of the Big 12 as 2012 kicks off. If you think Hurst is under the radar among the league's wide receivers, you're sorely mistaken.

Under the radar: Baylor Bears

June, 4, 2012
6/04/12
8:03
PM CT
Today, we'll kick off a new series on the Big 12 examining one player who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match their worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar.

First up, the Baylor Bears.

Under the radar: CB K.J. Morton

Baylor is starved for a true defensive star, and while it may not have one yet, Morton could be due for a breakout year in 2012. His name doesn't come up on anyone's short list for the conference's best corner, but he proved he has an ability to be a playmaker late in the season.

He became the starter in the Bears' third game of the season, and by season's end, had earned honorable mention All-Big 12 status. In the regular season's final three games, he intercepted four passes, moving him to fourth in the conference. That included interceptions against Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Texas Tech's Seth Doege. Both of his interceptions against Texas in the season finale gave Baylor's offense the ball in the red zone.

What's the biggest reason he could make a jump in Year 2? The opportunity for offseason growth. Morton didn't transfer to Baylor until late August, and had to rush to learn the new defense under Phil Bennett. Bennett's system is in its second year, and Morton should have a much greater understanding of the position by now. Additionally, he faces top-tier talent at receiver in practice every day against an offense that puts a lot of stress on defensive backs.

Morton doesn't command the same respect as guys like OSU's Brodrick Brown, Texas' Carrington Byndom or Oklahoma's Demontre Hurst.

Don't be shocked if that has changed by December.

Oklahoma spring wrap

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
10:30
AM CT
2011 overall record: 10-3
2011 conference record: 6-3 (T-3rd)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Landry Jones, RB Dominique Whaley, FB Trey Millard, WR Kenny Stills, OG Gabe Ikard, LB Tom Wort, CB Demontre Hurst, CB/S Aaron Colvin, FS Tony Jefferson

Key losses

WR Ryan Broyles, LT Donald Stephenson, TE James Hanna, DE Ronnell Lewis, DE Frank Alexander, LB Travis Lewis, CB Jamell Fleming

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Dominique Whaley* (627 yards)
Passing: Landry Jones* (4,463 yards)
Receiving: Ryan Broyles (1,157 yards)
Tackles: Travis Lewis and Aaron Colvin* (84)
Sacks: Frank Alexander (8.5)
Interceptions: Tony Jefferson* (4)

Spring answers

1. Trey Metoyer is the real deal: The true freshman had the best spring of any wide receiver on the OU roster, then capped it by leading the Sooners in receiving in the spring game. Metoyer has all but solidified a starting spot at wide receiver, and should help fill the massive production gap left by the graduation of Ryan Broyles.

2. Secondary on right path: Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops wasted no time revamping the secondary, sliding Tony Jefferson to free safety while inserting Javon Harris back into the starting lineup at strong safety. Stoops liked what he saw there in the spring, and if Harris can continue to bounce back from a shaky 2011 season, Stoops will have the flexibility of bumping Aaron Colvin to cornerback opposite three-year starter Demontre Hurst, solidifying the Sooners there, too.

3. O-line could be OU’s best in years: Not since 2008 have the Sooners been this deep and talented on the offensive line. Even with center Ben Habern rehabbing from offseason neck surgery, the line didn’t miss a beat grinding out OU’s defensive front most of the spring. Gabe Ikard has proved he can excel at either guard or center, guard Tyler Evans is entering his fourth year as a starter, and Adam Shead could be OU’s top interior run-blocker since All-America Duke Robinson. The tackles remain a little bit of a question mark. But Daryl Williams all but locked down the starting job on the right side with a great spring. On the left side, Tyrus Thompson is pushing to beat out 2011 starting right tackle Lane Johnson.

Fall questions

1. The No. 2 QB battle: Head coach Bob Stoops is no hurry to name a backup quarterback, a competition that figures to extend through August. Blake Bell, who shined running the ball out of the Belldozer formation last season, outplayed Drew Allen in the spring game, but Allen had his moments, too, and has another year of experience in the offense. Whoever wins the No. 2 job could have a leg up on the 2013 derby to replace Landry Jones.

2. The defensive line: Bob Stoops has had a first-team all-Big 12 defensive lineman every year since 1999. That streak, however, could be in jeopardy. Gone are sack machines Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis, leaving the Sooners without a proven difference-maker up front. The top five players in the rotation across the front will all be seniors, making it the most experienced in the conference. But for the Sooners to win the Big 12 and contend for a national title, someone must emerge as that difference-maker.

3. The backfield rotation: The Sooners have options in the backfield, but it’s unclear how running backs coach Cale Gundy will use them. It’s also unclear how effective 2011 leading rusher Dominique Whaley will be after missing half of last season with a fractured ankle. Roy Finch can be electric with the ball, but has not earned the trust of the coaching staff in his pass protection. Brennan Clay, banged up the past two seasons, finally looks healthy and had a solid spring. Then there’s touted junior-college transfer Damien Williams, who was also recruited by USC, and fullback Trey Millard, who warrants at least a handful of carries a game. Will someone emerge as the feature back? Or will Gundy go with a backfield by committee?

2011 Big 12 position rankings: Cornerbacks

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
2:00
PM CT
We're moving on with our 2011 postseason position rankings. Today, it's time for cornerbacks. If you missed it, here's how I ranked them in the preseason.

Here are the other position rankings we've done so far:
Depth is somewhat of a factor here, but I weighted it heavily toward the top two starters at the position.

[+] EnlargeCarrington Byndom
John Albright/Icon SMICarrington Byndom went up against some of the Big 12's top receivers and held his own.
1. Texas — The Longhorns duo of Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs were by far the league's best at limiting the big play. Both are physical. Both return. Beware, Big 12 offenses. In just their first year as starters, they helped the Longhorns lead the league in pass defense. Diggs, a true freshman, led the team with four interceptions. Until the regular-season finale against Baylor, Texas and Alabama were the only teams that hadn't given up a touchdown pass longer than 20 yards. Obviously, that's way, way more impressive in the Big 12.

2. Kansas State — K-State overachieved in a lot of ways this year, and perhaps nowhere more than at cornerback. Juco transfer Nigel Malone led the league with seven interceptions. Known entity David Garrett was even more solid, making 88 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. I ranked this unit 10th in the Big 12 before the season. They finished second. I was wrong.

3. Oklahoma — The Sooners' corners were good, but not great, and underachieved slightly. Jamell Fleming and Demontre Hurst are supremely talented, but were susceptible to big plays this year. Granted, everybody in the Big 12 was, but the Sooners ranked fourth in pass defense. Fleming broke up 10 passes and intercepted two more. Hurst broke up 11 and had an interception.

4. Oklahoma State — At times, Oklahoma State's Brodrick Brown was a legitimate shutdown corner. Justin Gilbert turned in a solid effort in his first year as a starter, which was much more important after a season-ending injury to Devin Hedgepeth in September. Gilbert picked off five passes, second-most in the Big 12.

5. Iowa StateLeonard Johnson was quietly an NFL prospect that put together a huge year. He was a big reason for ISU's upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State, and helped shut down Justin Blackmon. He finished with 71 tackles, eight pass breakups and a pick. Jeremy Reeves added two picks and seven pass breakups.

6. MissouriE.J. Gaines led the Big 12 with 16 pass breakups, and the Tigers ranked fifth in the Big 12 in pass defense. Fellow first-year starter Kip Edwards added a pick and three pass breakups.

7. Texas A&M — The team's top corner, Coryell Judie, was hampered by a hamstring injury all season, but production is production. It wasn't there for Judie, one of the league's top corners in 2010. Terrence Frederick had a good year with 13 pass breakups and a pick, but the Aggies were susceptible through the air all year. Lionel Smith and Dustin Harris filled in well in Judie's absence, but not well enough. A&M finished eighth in pass defense and helped five QBs set career highs for passing yardage in 2011.

8. BaylorK.J. Morton played well down the stretch for Baylor, but the Bears defense left a lot to be desired almost everywhere. They finished last in the Big 12 in pass defense, giving up over 290 yards a game. Morton picked off four passes and broke up six more. All four of his picks came in the final three games of 2011. Chance Casey broke up six passes and made 48 stops.

9. Texas Tech — How's this for irony? The Red Raiders actually finished second in the Big 12 in pass defense. It doesn't matter much. Tre' Porter had the only interception for a cornerback all season, and broke up two passes. Injuries were a problem all season. Cornelius Douglas, Derrick Mays, Jarvis Phillips and Sawyer Vest filled the unit, but Tech faced 61 fewer pass attempts than Kansas and 111 fewer than the next team in the Big 12. That's what happens when you can't stop the run. Doesn't mean the corners played well.

10. KansasGreg Brown picked off two passes and broke up three more. Isiah Barfield made 35 tackles and broke up five passes. The Jayhawks ranked ninth in the Big 12 in pass defense. They didn't get much of a pass rush to help the corners, but the corners were very poor in 2011.

SPONSORED HEADLINES